Top tips: How to manage drunk customers in your premises this summer.

Licensing rules: Poppleston Allen outlines the law on dealing with drunk customers (image: Getty/Roy Mehta)
Licensing rules: Poppleston Allen outlines the law on dealing with drunk customers (image: Getty/Roy Mehta)

Related tags Licensing Events Poppleston allen Health and safety

As we edge towards the height of British summer, operators up and down the country are likely to be faced with additional customers looking to kick back and relax with a drink (or two) in their premises.

Below, we have outlined the law on dealing with drunkenness and shared our top tips on how to deal with those who may have had one too many this summer.

What does the law say?

S.141 of the Licensing Act 2003 creates an outright prohibition on the sale of alcohol to drunk persons. So, what exactly does s.141 prohibit and who can be liable?

A person commits an offence if he knowingly sells or attempts to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk, or allows alcohol to be sold to such a person on a relevant premises.

S.141 applies to any person who works at the premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which gives him authority to sell the alcohol concerned. In the case of licensed premises, the section applies to the holder of the licence and the designated premises supervisor.

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

What is the definition of ‘drunk’?

Rather unhelpfully there is no legal definition. Case law has however confirmed that the ordinary meaning of ‘drunk’ would apply which refers to ‘having drunk intoxicating liquor to an extent which affects steady self-control’.

Good indicators include a person’s behaviour and coherence.

What if a sober customer tries to buy alcohol for a drunk customer?

Pre 2003 Licensing Act case law suggests that this may amount to selling alcohol to drunken individuals, so be vigilant to those who may think that they can beat the system.

What action can be taken?

Refusing entry

Ideally a drunk person should be refused entry, but this is not possible for most pubs.

Provided the refusal is not based on a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, namely sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief, licence holders have the right to refuse entry to whomever they choose, subject to any safeguarding and welfare considerations. No reason need be given.

Refusing service

A drunk person must be refused service of alcohol.

The same rules apply, provided the refusal is not on the grounds of a protected characteristic a customer can be refused service.

Top tips for handling drunk customers

The below is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of measures but can be considered alongside your existing practices and procedures:

-          Provide training to all staff on recognising and dealing with drunk customers and keep a record;

-          Refuse entry, if possible, and service to anyone who appears drunk, if in doubt best practice would be to err on the side of caution and refuse service/ entry;

-          Continually monitor the welfare of customers admitted to the premises, particularly those who may be vulnerable, a customer may be fine when they arrive but become drunk over a period of time;

-          Be alert to customers buying alcohol on behalf of drunk persons as this is in itself a separate offence;

-          Make a record of any refused alcohol sales, you may find that this is a condition under Annex 2 or 3 of your licence;

-          Avoid confrontation with drunk customers, politely and calmly explain why they are being refused entry/ service with reference to the law and your policies; and

-          Ensure promotions within the pub do not encourage drunkenness with reference to the mandatory conditions and Government guidelines.

Want to know more? Tune in to Poppleston Allen's podcast episode on this topic here​.

Related topics Licensing Hub

Related news

Show more