Children and Alcohol
This page gives guidance on the requirements under the Licensing Act 2003 relating to children and premises that are allowed to sell alcohol either because of a Premises Licence or a Club Certificate or a Temporary Event Notice.
Where and when are Children allowed on Licensed Premises?
There are two levels of restriction. One for premises mainly selling alcohol, e.g. pubs and clubs, and another for premises not mainly selling alcohol, such as an hotel lounge with a small bar in the corner.
- For premises that are used exclusively or primarily for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises. It is an offence for an under 16 to be on the premises, when they are open for the sale or supply of alcohol, unless they are with someone over the age of 18.
- For premises not used exclusively or primarily for the supply of alcohol, where the alcohol is for consumption on the premises. It is an offence for an under 16 to be on the premises between midnight and 05:00, when they are open for the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption there unless they are with someone over the age of 18.
- Provided that they are appropriately accompanied, children of any age are now allowed in all parts of the licensed premises at any time. The proprietor of the premises has the right, though, to exclude any customer, in the same way that any shopkeeper can. There is no restriction on allowing unaccompanied children on premises where there is no consumption on the premises or when the premises are not open for the sale or supply of alcohol.
What are the rules on selling alcohol?
It is an offence for anyone to sell alcohol to someone under the age of 18 anywhere, not just on licensed premises, or for a club to supply alcohol on club premises to an under 18. If the person selling the alcohol is unsure about someone’s age, then they must genuinely believe that the purchaser is over 18 and have taken reasonable steps to establish the individual’s age.
“Reasonable steps” means asking for evidence of their age and being satisfied that the evidence would have convinced a reasonable person. The best evidence is a photo driving licence or a passport.
Alternatively, there are Pass Accredited proof of age cards such as a Citizen Card, the Portman Card, or the Connexions Card. This duty is not just on the licence holder. Any person who works (paid or unpaid) at premises, in a capacity that would enable them to prevent the supply of alcohol, commits an offence if they stand by and allow the sale or supply to go ahead. This means, for instance, that officers of a club must not stand by and allow the barman to serve alcohol to someone under 18 if they know the person to be under 18. These rules apply to liqueur confectionery except that the minimum age of the person to whom they are sold or supplied is lowered to 16.
Kent County Council Trading Standards Service and Kent Police have the responsibility for ensuring that sales of alcohol to under 18’s do not take place and they do carry out test purchases using children.
Buying Alcohol by or for under 18’s
It is an offence for someone under 18 to purchase, or attempt to purchase alcohol, or be supplied with alcohol in a club. It is also an offence to send anyone under the age of 18 to obtain alcohol. It is also an offence for anyone to buy, or to attempt to buy alcohol for an under 18 or for an under 18 to consume alcohol on licensed premises. This does not apply if the purchase is for someone aged 16 or 17 and it is either beer, wine or cider and it is consumed at a table meal on the premises, and they are accompanied by someone aged 18 or over. Table meals do not include bar snacks.
Deliveries of Alcohol to Children
Alcohol sold on licensed premises must not be delivered to anyone under the age of 18.
Consumption of Alcohol
Under 18’s commit an offence if they consume alcohol on licensed premises unless they are aged 16 or 17, and it is either beer, wine or cider, and it is consumed at a table meal on the premises, and they are accompanied by someone aged 18 or over. Table meals do not include bar snacks.
(Remember, that the under 18’s may not buy the alcohol themselves).
Sales of Alcohol by Children
It is an offence to allow an under 18 to sell or supply alcohol unless the sale has been specifically approved by a person over 18 or another responsible person. This means each and every sale. The person approving the sale must also be satisfied that the purchaser is over 18. “Responsible Person” means the premises licence holder, the designated premises supervisor, or someone over 18 authorised by the holder or supervisor to make such approvals. This restriction does not apply where the alcohol is supplied for consumption with a table meal and this enables minors to serve alcohol in restaurants.
Remember that there are restrictions on the employment of anybody under the age of 16 under child protection legislation. Generally this prohibits under 16’s from working in theatres, nightclubs, cinemas etc., and from selling or delivering alcohol except in closed containers.
Whilst the Act does allow people under 18 to consume beer, wine or cider on licensed premises under very narrow circumstance, this is not a right. Proprietors can refuse to serve any customer. Remember that it is an offence to sell, or supply in clubs, alcohol to someone who is drunk or to allow disorderly conduct on licensed premises. Young people may not be experienced drinkers and will need greater care and attention than other customers.
If anyone, for example a trader or a member of the public becomes aware that alcohol is being supplied to anyone under 18, please contact Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Service to report the matter.
Retailers wanting further advice on how to avoid selling alcohol to persons under 18 can contact Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Service for free advice.
Confiscation of Alcohol
Police have the right to confiscate, in certain circumstances, both open and sealed containers of alcohol from under 18’s. If the alcohol is not surrendered not only is an offence committed but the under 18 can be arrested.
This page provides advice based on information available at the time of writing and may change. It is intended as guidance only and does not provide authoritative legal advice.
We would welcome your comments on this or any other of our leaflets, so as to ensure that they meet the needs of the users of our services.
Contact the Licensing Section
Telephone: 01304 872295