It is a little known fact that there are certain instances when alcohol can be sold by someone who is under the age of 18.
First of all, let’s clarify where the sale of alcohol takes place. Under the Licensing Act 2003, the sale of alcohol takes place where “the alcohol is appropriated to the contract”. The alcohol is appropriated to the contract when it is dispensed, i.e., poured into the glass, taken from the fridge, or the bottle opened and, therefore, the sale usually takes place at the bar.
No sale takes place where an order is taken at a table or an order is placed thorough an app because, at that point, the alcohol has not been “appropriated” to the contract.
Therefore, it is quite permissible for somebody under the age of 18 to take an order at a table, whether that be in a restaurant or a bar and pass it over to a member of staff who is over the age of 18 behind the bar, who then dispenses the alcohol to the order. You would need to question whether or not it is a good idea for somebody under the age of 18 to be doing this, when they would need to judge the sobriety of the customer ordering, and also their age and, clearly, the younger they are, the less experience they have working in the licensed trade.
Additionally, someone under the age of 18 can dispense alcohol in two circumstances: firstly, where alcohol is sold or supplied for consumption with a table meal, the alcohol is sold or supplied in premises which are being used for the service of a table meal (or in part of a premises which are being used) and the premises or part of it are not being used for the sale of supply of alcohol otherwise to persons having table meals there, and for consumption by such a person as an ancillary to the meal. In other words, it is permissible for somebody under the age of 18 to sell alcohol in a restaurant, or an area within larger premises, which is only being used as a restaurant, where alcohol may not be sold without a meal.
The second circumstance is where the sale made by the person who is under 18 is “specifically approved” by the designated premises supervisor, or another person who is specifically authorised by the designated premises supervisor to authorise sales by somebody who is under the age of 18. This is a strict test and somewhat onerous, so that each and every sale would need to be “specifically approved”. It is not sufficient for somebody to look from a distance to give the nod that the person under the age of 18 should make the sale; there needs to be a specific approval, we would suggest, by way of the person responsible for supervising the person under the age of 18 approving the transaction through the till system.