Right to refuse service and denying entry?

Licensing hub with Poppleston Allen: right to refuse service and denying entry? (Credit:Getty/SolStock)
Licensing hub with Poppleston Allen: right to refuse service and denying entry? (Credit:Getty/SolStock)

Related tags Poppleston allen Legal Licensing

You may have faced some challenges over the festive period with customers or potential customers challenging you or your staff if you have decided to refuse them service or entry and you may now be questioning whether you made the right decision or are worried about receiving complaints.

There is a common misconception that as you are running a public house you have a duty to serve all members of the public, but this is not the case. A public house is not a public place and so the public cannot insist on being there.

You can legally refuse service to any customer or deny them entry to your premises as you have a common law right to refuse entry or service to anyone you choose. You must be careful and ensure that your reasons for any refusal are not unlawful.

The grounds on which it would be unlawful to refuse someone entry or service include: -

  • Sex;
  • Race;
  • Disability;
  • Gender;
  • Sexual Orientation; and
  • Religion or Belief.

So, for example, if you were to refuse someone entry to your premises just because they were gay, then this would be discrimination which is unlawful.

If, however, the individual was a known troublemaker, and they had been ejected from your premises previously then this would be a valid reason for your refusal.

When considering who you should allow in your premises or if you should refuse service to someone you should always keep in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives, especially preventing crime and disorder and protecting children from harm.

If you are considering allowing under 18’s entry to your premises, then remember: -

  • If your premises are used primarily or exclusively for the sale and consumption of alcohol, then you must refuse entry to children under 16 unless they are accompanied by an adult;
  • If your premises are not used primarily or exclusively for the sale and consumption of alcohol (for example if you are a restaurant or a gastropub) then as a strict matter of law they can be in your premises unaccompanied until midnight, although clearly you will have your own rules about the presence of unaccompanied children; and
  • To check your premises licence conditions for any restrictions in relation to under 18’s – for example if there is a condition which states that no under 16’s are allowed on your premises after 8pm then you must comply with this.

If you refuse entry to anyone under 18 to comply with any of the restrictions mentioned above, then it would be legal to do so.

If you are faced with a customer who is drunk you may be minded to simply refuse entry on that basis, and you have the right to, particularly if they are being drunk and disorderly. However, keep in mind that there may be safeguarding considerations here and you should ensure that all your staff are aware of these.

There may be a scenario for example, where a young individual who may be drunk is separated from their friends and alone, you (or your staff) may determine that it is safer for them to be allowed entry to your premises whilst they locate their friends, or book a taxi so that they can make their way home safely, as opposed to potentially wandering the streets alone and vulnerable if you refuse them entry.

You should refuse to serve alcohol to:-

  • Someone who is under the age of 18;
  • Someone who is over the age of 18, but you believe they are purchasing the alcohol for someone who is under the age of 18;
  • Someone who you know is drunk; and
  • Someone who you believe is buying alcohol for a drunk person.

Related topics Licensing Hub

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