Legal top tips: do your homework on student promotions

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Great opportunity: students want to have fun but make sure your promotions are handled responsibly
Great opportunity: students want to have fun but make sure your promotions are handled responsibly
With the students being back at university, I have noticed an increase in posters and flyers advertising promotions at pubs and bars.

This can be a tricky area and operators can easily fall foul of the mandatory conditions, which form part of their premises licence, in respect of irresponsible drinks promotions. Getting it wrong can be costly and result in either a review of your premises licence and/or prosecution. 

Some key points to remember are:

The promotion should not require customers to participate in any game or activity that encourages customers to consume alcohol within a short period of time or link consumption to unpredictable events such as ‘a free shot following every free kick’ in a football match, for example.

Make sure that any promotional material – be that posters or social media content – is considered carefully. You must not condone, encourage or glamorise excessive consumption or antisocial behaviour.

The ‘dentist’s chair’ ie, dispensing alcohol directly by one person into the mouth of another, is strictly prohibited. Note that where that other person is unable to drink without assistance by reason of disability is an exception.

You must make sure that price promotions comply with the minimum pricing mandatory condition that applies to all premises licences.

If you are using external promoters for a specific event, carefully check and monitor any promotional materials to ensure that they are not breaching the mandatory conditions.

When considering your drinks promotion, have at the forefront of your mind that the promotion must not carry a significant risk of undermining a licensing objective. For example, an offer to students allowing them to drink as much as they like for £15 would carry a significant risk. There is no limit placed on how much the students can drink and, as such, this would be considered an irresponsible drinks promotion.

Home Office guidance on the mandatory conditions lists the following factors to consider when determining what constitutes a significant risk:

Type of promotion:

  • How big is the discount?
  • For how long does the discount apply?

Potential customers:

  • Is there likely to be a significant increase in the number of customers?
  • What is the profile of the customer base?

Type of premises:

  • Is it a high-volume vertical drinking establishment or a community pub?

History of premises:

  • Have previous promotions been handled responsibly?
  • Has the licence been recently reviewed?
  • Have sufficient security measures been taken for any potential increase in the number of customers?


If you are unsure about your promotion and need assistance, you should contact your local police licensing officer or seek legal advice.

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