Covid Measures in Estonian Cafes: Strict or not?

Covid measures in Estonian cafes are annoying and ineffective. But people will obey the rules. Most of them have a moral compass and won’t risk the health of other people. Especially if the reason is a shot of 100% vegan coffee.

Or do they? How can we check it?

This is not the story about the legal justification of the Covid measures or against them. The Estonian laws are here to obey and respect. 

Covid measures in Estonian cafes raise a lot of questions
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The law background of Covid measures in Estonian cafes

The rules on the official page ( are pretty precise. To quote them:

When eating and drinking on the premises of a catering establishment, all customers or participants over the age of 18 must present a COVID certificate proving vaccination, recovery or the negative results of a prior test. Consuming on the spot is allowed only if the checking of COVID-19 certificates is ensured, and this applies even if the catering establishment is rented out e.g. for birthdays, company parties or other private events.

The organisers have the obligation to check the validity of the COVID certificates. If there is substantiated doubt, the person must be asked to present an identity document.

Easy as a pie. You enter, show the lovely bartender your Covid certificate, followed by your ID. You are then free to sit and open your laptop while you await your coffee.

And now back to reality.

Are Covid measures in Estonian cafes being executed?

Yes, but with a certain amount of freedom. We have three cases:

  • You will be asked if you have a certificate, and you won’t have to show it
  • You will be asked to show your certificate and ID
  • Or, you won’t be asked a goddamn thing, except “What can I get you?”

The fun part? Usually, you will be showing your certificate to barely legal baristas. You will shove your smartphone in their face, and they will look for two seconds and say it’s okay. Happened every time, and I was never asked to show my ID. Although I have a rather weird combination of first and last name, even for a Slav. 

Recently, the measures got more strict. Now you have to show the barista your certificate and ID. The barista will scan your certificate, and compare it with your ID and your physical appearance. The fact that every barista in Tallinn can see your full name and preferred vaccine choice raises a whole other set of legal questions.

Should baristas enforce Covid measures in Estonian cafes?

How? The baristas, primarily younger and less experienced ones, are given options. Lousy options. They can:

  1. In the middle of the work, stop, leave all, and get really physically close to a man who might have Corona. Check his ID, his certificate, and if his appearance is the same as the picture on the ID. All that for 4€ per hour. Not to mention it is a humiliating process for both sides.
  2. Forbid someone from entering the bar, and get in a heated argument with possibly a sick man. Well, every man who argues with a barista already has suspicious (mental) health, so…

And, of course, there are some bars where you don’t have to worry about being asked to shove your Covid certificate, just like the old times. They take all risks on themselves.

Update – 22.11.2021

Wow, some of the parts of this article did not age well. I am reading about one of the cafes in Kalamaja getting fined (repeatedly) for not checking the health certificates. Obey the law, guys.

What about bars and the nightlife?

I can share with you one mini anecdote that happened a few months ago. We were celebrating Dominique’s birthday (yay) and decided to go to a karaoke bar. A couple of us haven’t yet had our Covid certificates, and we had to take a test to enter the bar premises.

Now imagine that. A young (and very polite) security guy takes 10€ from us, unvaccinated ingrates, for a test. Cash only and no receipt. Then he goes inside the bar and comes back with 4 swabs. Luckily, he didn’t shove those things into our noses. We did that ourselves. Imagine 2 guys and two girls, well past midnight, showing something in their noses/mouths in front of the karaoke bar. 

The security guy took the swabs, told us to wait 10 minutes, and got back bearing the happy message: “You may come in”. 

This very true story depicts the seriousness of Covid testing in bars in Estonia. And I won’t tell you what bar that was. The beer was good, the singing and atmosphere were wonderful, and the security guy was almost apologetic during the whole pointless process.

You miserable anti-vaxxer…

You can’t be farther from the truth. I am pro-science and a fully vaccinated fan of vaccination. I am not a fan of stupid measures. So, what’s the solution?

I don’t know. 

Small coffee shops cannot afford a security guy to be there the whole time. Baristas can’t argue with people, as it’s kinda counterproductive. You can’t let sick people inside. That, my friend, is called Mexican standoff. 

Reservoir Dogs, a masterpiece

The only thing I know is that the current set of measures simply doesn’t work. And people who wrote them also know that. But, we will keep the illusion. Cafes need to work. People need to work. Estonia needs its tax.

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