Legal Q&A: Refusing service or entry

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

No entry?: The latest legal Q&A from Poppleston Allen examines the rules around age checks and refusing service or entry
No entry?: The latest legal Q&A from Poppleston Allen examines the rules around age checks and refusing service or entry
The latest legal Q&A from specialist licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen examines the rules around refusing service or entry.

Age-old challenges

Q: After 20 years working in corporate recruitment roles, my husband and I have taken a complete life change and are opening a small bistro in our village. Can you tell me the law around displaying a proof of age policy, such as Challenge 21 or Challenge 25? I have been told by the local police officer I need to display a Challenge 25 poster, while some pubs only show Challenge 21 or nothing at all!

A: One of the mandatory conditions on all premises licences is that you have an age verification policy. This condition is intended to ensure that you operate at a minimum standard of due diligence to ensure you are not selling alcohol to minors.

The mandatory conditions also require that the identification someone produces to prove their age must have photographic identification, including date of birth and either a holographic mark or an ultraviolet feature.

Acceptable forms of identification include: driving licence, passport, PASS Card and military identification cards.

I always advise clients that it is sensible for this policy to be in writing; so that they can provide evidence of it to the authorities should they ever need to. There is nothing in law, however, which requires you to display any proof of age signage, be it Challenge 21 or Challenge 25, but I would always recommend displaying signage.

However, different premises licences carry different conditions. For instance, if the bistro you are opening has an existing premises licence and there have been previous issues around underage drinking, it might contain a condition that requires you to display the appropriate notices. If it does, then it is a legal requirement.

Therefore, you should carefully check your premises licence for any conditions as a failure to follow these is a criminal offence.

On a related note – particularly as you are running a bistro – even though it is illegal for someone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol, 16 and 17-year-olds can drink beer, wine or cider with a table meal. This is if the alcohol is bought by an adult for the 16/17-year-old and they are accompanied by an adult. It is illegal for this age group to drink spirits in pubs even with a meal.

Refusing service or entry

Q: I recently read about a couple of bars refusing entry to people because they were gay. Obviously this is discrimination but I was just wondering when can I legally refuse service or entry?

A: I have also read about similar cases that certainly look like discrimination. The law states you cannot refuse entry or service based on: sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

You do, however, 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 operator, who refuses. Your bar staff can refuse service or 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 the public cannot insist on being there.

When considering whom to allow into your premises and whom to serve, always keep in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives, especially preventing crime and disorder. And, of course, never serve or allow entry to a person whom you believe is drunk or underage. 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.

For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website​.

Related topics: Licensing law

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