In our part of the world, celebrating includes a glass of wine, Sekt, or beer – which inevitably leads me, as a lawyer, to a few legal questions: When is it legal to consume alcohol in Austria? Can you still drive a car, bicycle, or an e-scooter while slightly intoxicated? What about glass at the workplace? And finally: Are you allowed to produce alcohol yourself? Here is everything you need to know when it comes to alcohol and law in Austria.
Beer and wine available from 16 onward, hard drinks from 18
The minimum age for alcohol consumption is set by each federal state individually – therefore, Austria has nine different sets of regulations. As a general rule, however, the purchase, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages in public are only permitted from the age of 16 onward, with hard alcoholic beverages like spirits usually permitted from the age of 18.
A maximum 0.5 Promille while driving
When driving, the legal limit for alcohol in your bloodstream is less than 0.05% BAC (blood alcohol content); in certain cases (e.g. professional drivers), the limit is actually 0.01% or less. Cyclists can get away with 0.08% when stopped for a breathalyzer, which corresponds to 0.4 mg of alcohol per liter of breath.
If you’re riding an e-scooter, the same general rules for cyclists apply – 0.08%. However, more powerful e-scooters (600 watts or higher with a maximum speed of over 25 km/h), fall under the regulations for passenger cars – 0.05%.
Booze in the workplace?
One widely held opinion is that refraining from alcohol consumption at the workplace is already enshrined in Austrian law exists due to an employee’s obligation to work and demonstrate loyalty to the employer; therefore, no further regulation (alcohol ban) is needed. Whether this applies in every case is questionable. Either way, an employer can order alcohol prohibitions and/or restrictions based on his right to issue instructions to their staff. This concerns, among other things, alcohol bans during working hours and during on-call periods, limits on alcohol consumption on company premises, as well as prohibiting bringing alcohol on company premises. Even entering the workplace while intoxicated can be prohibited by employer instruction.
Employers have no say in an employee’s conduct outside working hours nor can they set regulations on handling alcohol during free time or breaks – if said time is spent outside the company. The situation is different regarding the consumption of alcohol on company premises (e.g. social rooms or canteens). Here, employers can prohibit alcohol consumption even if during free time; this is primarily for safety reasons.
Brewing beer and distilling spirits for personal use
To the Austrian government, the production of alcohol is of interest mainly as a source of revenue. For that reason, brewing beer for personal use – i.e. for your own consumption or the enjoyment of relatives and friends – is irrelevant from the perspective of the Finanzamt. Distilling spirits, however, is a different matter: A customs declaration is required if the still used has a production volume of more than two liters. There are special regulations for farmers.
If you have a legal problem with alcohol, the specialists at Lansky, Ganzger & Partner Attorneys at Law will be happy to assist you at any time.