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Selling alcohol

This information is provided by: Netherlands Enterprise Agency

If you sell (off-licence) or serve alcohol (on-licence), you must be aware of the rules stated in the Licensing and Catering Act (Drank- en Horecawet). This Act makes a distinction between:

  • Drinks with less than 15% alcohol, such as beer and wine (including port and sherry, also when the alcohol percentage of these beverages is higher than 15%)
  • Strong drinks with 15% alcohol or more

If you sell strong drinks, you need a licence under the Licensing and Catering Act or a liquor licence (off-licence). Your staff must also comply with certain requirements.

No underage sales of alcohol

You are not allowed to sell alcohol to individuals younger than 18. Therefore you must always ask young people to produce proof of their age. You also have a duty to prevent the sale of alcohol to underaged youths through persons who are aged 18 years or older (proxy sales). If you are caught selling alcohol to underage youths 3 times within 1 year, you could get a (temporary) ban on selling alcohol.

Age verification checks

Always ask young people for their identity card in order to establish their age. This is not necessary if a youth is clearly older than 18 years. You must place the rules to whom you are allowed or not allowed to sell alcohol in a clearly visible place in your business.

Staff requirements

If you serve beer or wine or sell strong drinks, your staff members must be 16 years or older. A bartender younger than 18 may sell alcohol, but they are not allowed to drink it. Managers must be at least 21 and there must always be one present at your business during opening hours. This particular manager is mentioned on your permit.

Selling alcoholic beverages in the retail sector

An off-licence permit is required to sell high-alcohol beverages. Off-licences may only sell alcoholic beverages and related articles, such as corkscrews or wine and beer glasses. In addition, they may deliver high-alcohol beverages to private homes. Customers are allowed to taste alcoholic beverages, if they ask for it. However, this can only be offered by the staff of your off-licence. A promotion team is not allowed to do this.

If you own a supermarket, grocer's store, snack bar, domestic catering establishment, tobacco store or wine shop, you are allowed to sell low-alcohol beverages such as beer, wine, port and sherry without a permit. If you sell beer, wine, port or sherry exclusively, you won't need a permit either. Sampling at your store is not allowed.

If you want to serve alcoholic beverages in a catering section, your premises must comply with certain rules:

  • The area must be separated from the shop on all sides and must be lockable.
  • Your premises must comply with the building regulations.
  • A customer must be able to enter your shop without having to pass through the catering section.
  • The walls of the catering section must be at least 2.4 metres high.
  • In addition, the catering location must cover an area of at least 35 m².
  • There must be 2 toilets in the catering section.

Selling alcoholic beverages via a web shop

If you want to sell alcoholic beverages via a web shop, you must check your municipality's zoning plan to see whether this is permitted. You may only sell high-alcohol beverages via a web shop if you also have an off-licence company.

You do not need a licence to sell low-alcohol beverages via a web shop. However, restrictions do apply to the area from which beverages may be supplied. If, for example, you do not have an off-licence, snack bar or food store, beverages may only be supplied from a closed room which is not accessible to the public and in which the corresponding orders are processed. When supplying alcoholic beverages you are obliged to check the recipient's age.

Selling alcoholic beverages on a market or during an event

You are not allowed to sell or serve alcoholic beverages on a (goods) market.

If you want to serve beer, wine, port or sherry during an event, you will have to apply for a licence dispensation under the Licensing and Catering Act at your municipality. The same applies to ready-made drinks. You are not allowed to mix the drinks yourself. During the event you are not permitted to sell alcohol.

This information is provided by:

Netherlands Enterprise Agency