The Licensing Act 2003 states that a 16 or 17-year-old may consume beer, wine or cider with a table meal as long as the alcohol is purchased by someone over the age of 18.
This causes lots of anxiety among many operators who are, quite rightly, wary of breaking the law in relation to underage sales. As long as the alcohol is purchased by an adult, the operator is acting within the law, however, it can be difficult to monitor and manage.
The policy of many operators is, therefore, to refuse service to anyone under the age of 18 and also to prohibit the consumption of beer, wine or cider to anyone under the age of 18 even if they are taking a table meal.
Similarly, many operators choose to exclude under-18s from their premises altogether, irrespective of whether that is a condition of their premises licence or not.
Many clients contact us in relation to complaints received, often by angry parents, who are aware of the exemption within the law and have been refused service of alcohol that was intended for consumption by their teenage family members.
However, while the law may permit the sale, there is nothing to prevent an operator exercising their discretion and having a policy which refuses service to under-18s.