Firstly, check your premises licence, which may contain restrictions on children being permitted on your premises – each premises licence is different so if you operate more than one premises, check each licence carefully. These conditions could be on the licence because they were volunteered previously, imposed due to historical problems with the premises or were carried over from the old licensing regime pre-2005.
However, there are key points that apply to all premises, regardless of any conditions specified on the premises licence.
If your licensed premises are used exclusively or primarily for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises then it is an offence to allow unaccompanied children under 16 on the premises.
If you are a restaurant operator then the above won’t apply as your primary use is the provision of food, but the difficulty comes if you operate a mixed business, for example a pub that serves food, in establishing if your premises, or even part of your premises, are used primarily for the sale of alcohol. This is a matter of fact and degree. Common sense and due diligence as always apply, and if you’re really unsure whether children should be present take legal advice or speak to your local licensing officer.
Between the hours of midnight and 5am, unaccompanied children under the age of 16 are prohibited from all licensed premises used for the supply of alcohol to be consumed on the premises. It doesn’t matter if you’re a restaurant, pub, cinema (selling alcohol) or nightclub.
The licensing issues with children don’t stop there, of course, particularly with regard to consumption of beer, wine or cider with a table meal by 16 and 17-year-olds, or the need for robust age-verification policies – as we all know, not all 17-year-olds look 17. Make sure your staff are aware of the law and have refresher training if necessary.
If there are conditions that hinder your business or indeed future plans then it may be possible to look to remove or amend these by making an application to your licensing authority, but I recommend pre-consultation with the authorities to ensure that they have no concerns.