Ho! Ho! No! How to deal with festive drunkenness

Trouble brewing: advice from Poppleston Allen on dealing with drunk customers (credit: Getty/dusanpetkovic)
Trouble brewing: advice from Poppleston Allen on dealing with drunk customers (credit: Getty/dusanpetkovic)

Related tags Legislation Licensing Poppleston allen Social responsibility

Now that we’ve seen the back of Halloween and Bonfire Night, and the annual debate has started over whether the John Lewis advert is the best campaign on TV, it must be fast approaching Christmas.

Let’s face it, it has been another incredibly tough year for the country: and particularly the hospitality trade. High energy prices. Record food inflation. The impact of the national living wage increase. And eye-watering interest rate increases to boot.

So many people will be glad to see the back of 2023 and usher in a, hopefully better, 2024.

Holiday cheer and high spirits have always been associated with the festive period, but given the year we’ve faced, some might indulge in alcohol a little too much. And if your customers do, do you know what to do?

Lack of clear guidance

Unfortunately, there is a lack of clear guidance on assessing if people are drunk or not. So, we thought that giving you some basic advice around this issue would be helpful. And you won’t be surprised to hear that this advice, like so much in the trade, is centred around training.

But before we look at this, remember that is illegal to knowingly sell alcohol to someone who is drunk. It is also illegal to knowingly allow alcohol to be sold to someone who is drunk.

Practical actions you can take:

  • Can you and your teams spot the signs of someone who is drunk trying to enter your premises and/or be served – signs include slurred speech, glazed eyes or being unsteady on their feet.
  • Are you and your teams aware that if a customer appears to be drunk, then it would be sensible not to admit them onto your premises and you must refuse service. In reality, and particularly when you are busy, it can be difficult to tell. So, if your teams suspect someone is drunk, but are unsure, it is usually best to err on the side of caution and refuse entry and/or service.
  • Are you aware of the need to monitor customers who have already been admitted to the premises and/or previously been served. It may well be that when they arrived, they appeared fine, but then they have later become drunk. This can happen if they have consumed a large quantity of alcohol just before entering your premises, but this didn’t take effect until after they had been served.
  • Do not allow a customer to purchase drinks for someone else who is drunk (as this is a separate offence) and if they suspect someone is doing this, they should refuse service.
  • Do not encourage customers to drink large quantities of alcohol – this could be by way of drinks promotions. Your staff should be aware of the mandatory conditions in relation to the availability of small measures for beer, certain spirits and wine.
  • Are staff aware of their wider duties? Someone who is drunk is a vulnerable person. Someone who appears to be drunk may in fact have a disability and may or may not be vulnerable. Either way, your staff should be aware of their responsibilities and any procedures under your vulnerable persons or similar policy should kick in.

For further details on this, see this helpful guide for handling drunk customers​.

Related topics Licensing Hub

Related news

Show more


Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more

The MA Lock In Podcast

Join us for a Lock In