Two issues will most commonly arise when considering employing youngsters behind the bar:
A specific section of the Licensing Act deals with the obligations of the “responsible person” in respect of the sale of alcohol by under-18s. The person in question can be the premises licence holder, designated premises supervisor or any person over the age of 18 so authorised by either the holder or the supervisor. The authorisation by the responsible person is necessary for each sale — it cannot be a blanket approval.
Imagine, if you will, a scenario in which the premises licence holder does not have a personal licence. I know of many holders who have not, for one reason or another, bothered to get a personal licence. The premises licence holder, however, can authorise a person aged 18 who also isn’t a personal licence holder to approve the sale of alcohol by a person under 18.
By their very nature, designated premises supervisors must hold a personal licence. However, one of the quirks of the Licensing Act allows someone with potentially limited knowledge of alcohol retailing — and who couldn’t authorise adults to sell alcohol — to authorise youngsters to do so. There is no mention of a personal licence holder being required to authorise either the premises licence holder or the 18-year-old. If there was ever a case for due diligence and training this must be at the head of the queue.
There is an exemption, however, for those operators (primarily restaurants) that serve table meals (or the part of the premises where those meals are served). If the premises or part of it is being used only for the provision of table meals and alcohol is sold ancillary to the provision of table meals, there is no requirement for specific authorisation.
However, like everything else to do with the sale of alcohol, a due diligence defence is only as strong as the weakest link in the organisation, and thorough training of 16 to 18-year-olds in the sale of alcohol should still be a basic requirement for all those aspiring to wait on tables in restaurants where alcohol is sold.
Mind the bylaws
Some local authorities have bylaws that may overrule the requirements of the Licensing Act. These bylaws can restrict the employment of children and the sale of alcohol to only sealed containers by those youngsters. This is fine if you are selling alcohol from an off-licence or supermarket but not very practical if you want a youngster to work behind the bar. As with any bylaw, ignorance is not bliss and you should check it out.
Increasingly, providers to the hospitality industry are offering apprenticeships and if you are one of the lucky recipients of part-time barstaff during the hospitality training, ensure that you are on the right side of the law to avoid problems for both you and the apprentice at some later stage.