Estonians flock to Valka to buy cheap booze

A third liquor store will soon open up in the Valka border town, which has a population of fewer than 6,000 and abuts Estonia's town of Valga. Both Estonian and Latvian entrepreneurs are vying for the market as alcohol is much cheaper on the Latvian side due to excise tax differences, reported Latvian Radio Tuesday.

Ingūna Johansone, editor-in-chief of the Ziemeļlatvija daily, said that a supermarket specializing in alcohol sales will open up soon and will also have market stalls for local salesmen.

Locals are happy about money filling the city's coffers, however simultaneously Valka is becoming so busy at times there's no place to park a car.

Johansone said that alcohol sales in a way help improving infrastructure; for example, now the border between Valka (Latvia) and Valga (Estonia) not only holds a liquor store but also a hotel and a parking lot for trailers. In general, the state of the previously abandoned territory has become better.

Valka Mayor Vents Armands Krauklis told Latvian Radio earlier that according to Estonian estimates about 25 to 30% of people buying alcohol are now doing so in Latvia.

Excise tax in Latvia is about 40% lower than in Estonia, while the difference between Estonia and Finland is about 100% - so it's not entirely out of the question that hard-drinking Finns might soon arrive, too. 

Previously Estonia's Health Ministry expressed worry about the cross-border alcohol trade carried out by Estonian companies on the Latvian side of the border. 

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