PRAGUE (Reuters) - The head of the lower house of the Czech parliament has banned the sale of alcohol on the premises during plenary sessions, ending an old tradition of selling cheap booze that brightened the mood among politicians and visitors.
Drinking is the norm in the Czech Republic, which has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world and where beer is often cheaper than mineral water in restaurants.
A shot of hard alcohol in the lower house sold for as little as 0.6 euro, cheap even by Czech standards. Lengthy debates and backdoor dealings were often oiled by a glass or three.
One deputy missed a key vote on fiscal reforms several years ago because he got too drunk to leave a nearby pub, and deputies frequently accuse each other of being tipsy during sessions.
But a new political force, the centrist ANO movement that stormed into parliament last year on promises to improve the political culture, forced a change in the tradition.
"It is true that workers cannot drink during work hours, so we are eliminating this discrepancy between employees and deputies," Social Democrat house Chairman Jan Hamacek said.
The ban on alcohol will not be complete. Deputies will still be able to bring their own supplies. There are also many pubs in around parliament in the historical Prague city center.
Conservative deputy and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek was not happy with the rule.
He said that taken to extremes, the rule that alcohol should not be served at work means deputies should not drink at all, because their mandate is not limited by normal working hours.
"This rule, taken all the way, means deputies are bound by abstinence 365 days a year and 24 hours a day," news website www.idnes.cz quoted Kalousek as saying.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Larry King