How to... Deal with under-18s in pubs

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licensed premises, Alcoholic beverage, Wine

Selling alcohol to under-18s can result in a prosecution and fine of up to £5,000
Selling alcohol to under-18s can result in a prosecution and fine of up to £5,000
Here is a quick, and hopefully helpful, guide on the basics of serving under-18s in pubs, clubs and restaurants.

Under-18s in licensed premises when alcohol is sold

■ 16 and 17-year-olds are allowed in licensed premises at any time. They do not have to be accompanied by someone aged 18 or over.
■ Under-16s (the Licensing Act 2003 refers to them as children) are also allowed on licensed premises, at any time, as long as they are with someone aged 18 or over.
■ However, if they are unaccompanied, then it is an offence to allow an under-16:
1. To be on licensed premises between the hours of midnight and 5am.
2. To be on premises primarily used for the supply of alcohol at any time.

Whether premises are primarily used for the supply of alcohol is a question of fact and would catch many traditional pubs. However, it is unlikely to include the increasing numbers of pubs where the main business activity is the consumption of both food and drink, and it would not apply to restaurants or hotels.

An offence is committed if you allow an unaccompanied child to remain on your premises when they are legally not allowed. The offence carries a fine of up to £1,000, and you also risk a review of your premises licence. There is a defence if:
(a)​ You believed that the unaccompanied child was aged 16 or over, or that an individual accompanying them was aged 18 or over.
(b)​ You had taken all reasonable steps to establish the individual’s age.
(c)​ Nobody could reasonably have suspected from their appearance that they were aged under 16 or, as the case may be, under 18.

Reasonable steps would include asking individuals for documentary evidence of their age; and that the document would convince a reasonable person.

Sale and supply of alcohol to under-18s

It is an offence to:

  1. Sell alcohol to someone under 18.
  2. Allow the sale of alcohol to someone under the age of 18. 
  3. Sell liquor in confectionery to someone under 16.

These are the types of offences that we often see enforced by the use of test-purchasing operations by both police and trading standards officers. The person selling or supplying the alcohol may face action in the form of:

  1. A fixed penalty notice.
  2. A formal caution.
  3. Prosecution with a fine of up to £5,000.

The under-18 commits an offence if they buy or attempt to buy alcohol, with a maximum fine of £1,000. But I’m not aware of any prosecution of an under 18. A person commits an offence if he buys, or attempts to buy, alcohol on behalf of someone under the age of 18.

However, those aged 16 or 17 can legally consume beer, wine or cider to drink with a meal on licensed premises, as long as the beer, wine or cider has been bought by someone over the age of 18.

It goes without saying that you may also have conditions on your licence that limit access to your premises by under-18s.

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