Legal Q&A: refusing entry and police on the premises

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

You have the power: You can deny anyone entry to your premises
You have the power: You can deny anyone entry to your premises
The latest legal Q&A looks at what power operators have in refusing entry and delves into the circumstances under which police can enter a pub.

Entry refusal

Q: I recently read about a bar that refused entry to a couple because they were gay. Obviously, this is discrimination but, as a licensee, I was just wondering when can I can legally refuse service or entry?

A: You are absolutely correct. You cannot refuse entry or service based on: sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

However, you do have a common law right to refuse entry or service to whomever you choose. And to be clear, it doesn’t have to be you, the licensee, who refuses. Your bar staff can refuse service and entry as can your door staff, if you use them.

One of the main areas of confusion with this issue – and one that you might have heard before – is that as you are running a public house, you have a duty to serve members of the public.

A public house is not a public place, so members of the public cannot insist on being there.

When considering who to allow into your premises and who to serve, always keep in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives, especially preventing crime and disorder and protecting children from harm. And, of course, never serve or allow entry to a person who you believe to be drunk.

I recommend that you check your premises licence for conditions restricting access to certain categories of customers, particularly children. Remember that if your premises are used primarily or exclusively for the sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises, children under the age of 16 are not permitted to enter unless accompanied by an adult.

And, as a final point, I recommend that you have a policy to deal with issues regarding the admission and service of customers and that the policy is communicated to your staff.

Who can demand entry?

Q: Me and my wife have just taken over our first pub. It is a local community pub but it has suffered a few issues in recent years and is known to the police. I fully expect to be on the police’s ‘radar’ during the early stages of running the pub but can you confirm that it is just the police that can demand entry to my premises?

A: Under the Licensing Act 2003, it is only the police that have the power to enter and search premises where they believe that an offence under the act has been, or is about to be, committed.

Under a separate provision, however, the Licensing Act empowers the police or an ‘authorised person’ to enter premises to see if an activity is being, or is to be, carried out in accordance with the licence.

The ‘authorised person’ includes licensing and environmental health officers, fire inspectors and health and safety officers.

Furthermore, both the police and the ‘authorised person’ may use reasonable force to gain entry.

Something that might ease your concern is that, under the code of practice relating to powers of entry, where it is appropriate and practicable, reasonable notice (usually not less than 48 hours or as specified in relevant legislation) should be provided to the occupier or landowner of the intention to enter.

However, this is a debatable area because it will not be appropriate or practical in every situation.

So it is possible, but by no means certain, that you will receive notice of any impending visit by the police or responsible authorities.

I would not recommend refusing entry to authorities. Not just because this is highly likely to harm your relationships but it is an offence to intentionally obstruct an authorised person exercising a power.

Related topics: Licensing law

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