Published: 23 August 2023 by Paula Kioko
In this episode, licensing expert and associate solicitor, Natasha Beck, discusses the right to refuse entry and service on your premises.
Find the transcript below:
Welcome and welcome back to the Poppleston Allen podcast where we discuss licensing topics to help you and also me get a better understanding of what licensing is all about.
Some of the most frequent questions that we get asked as licensing solicitors is about the right to refuse service and denying entry to customers. So for this month’s episode, I thought I would bring in our licensing expert and associate solicitor Natasha Beck to answer some of your most frequent questions as well as give you some top tips to focus on as operators.
So the first question is, can I legally refuse service to a customer or deny them entry to my premises?
The simple answer is yes you can. You have a common law right to refuse entry or service to anyone you choose. However, you must ensure that your reasons for any refusal are not unlawful.
But I thought if I’m running a public house I have a duty to serve members of the public?
This is a common area of confusion when considering this issue, but this is not correct. A public house is not a public place, so the public cannot insist on being there.
So when is it unlawful to refuse someone entry or service?
It is unlawful to refuse someone entry on the grounds of sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief due to equality legislation. For example, if you were to refuse someone entry just because they were gay, then this would be discrimination and is unlawful.
OK, so when is it lawful to refuse someone entry?
If your grounds for refusal, for example, were that the person was a known troublemaker and they had been previously ejected from your premises, then this would be a valid reason for your refusal.
When considering who you should allow into your premises, you should always keep in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives, especially preventing crime and disorder, and protecting children from harm. 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 and if they are not, for example, if you are a gastropub then they should be refused entry between the hours of midnight and 5:00 AM if alcohol is being sold.
You should always check your premises licence conditions to see if there are any conditions that restrict entry to children. For example, a condition which may state no under sixteens after 8:00 PM. If this condition is present, then you should refuse them entry after this time and it would be legal to do so.
You may be minded to refuse someone entry simply because they are drunk and you do have a right to refuse entry, particularly if someone is being drunk and disorderly. However, there are also safeguarding considerations here that your staff should be aware of. For example, you may decide a young individual who may be drunk and separated from their friends should be allowed entry to your premises whilst they locate their friends or book a taxi to make their way home safely.
And when is it lawful to refuse them service?
As with refusing entry when considering whether to refuse service, it is important to keep in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives. Particularly the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm
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 18. Someone who you know is drunk and someone who you believe to be buying alcohol for a drunk person.
I understand that I should not serve drunk people and refuse them entry, but how is drunk classified?
Unfortunately, there is no precise legal definition, but in one court case, the court said that the ordinary and natural meaning of the word drunk was the same as the dictionary definition. This refers to having drunk intoxicating liquor to an extent which affects steady self-control. I will come on to some of the common signs of intoxication later.
What should I do if the person refused service on the basis of the intoxication claims it’s because of their race, sexuality, appearance and so on?
In these situations, it’s important to avoid confrontation and ensure that you give clear reasons for your refusal. For instance, on the grounds of crime and disorder if they have caused issues in your premises before.
It is also good practice to keep a log of refusals and the reasons for that refusal, so that if a customer makes a complaint that you have acted unlawfully, you can refer back to this.
Does it have to be the licensee or designated premises supervisor who refuses entry or service?
No, it does not have to be a specific individual who refuses entry or service. It can be your manager or any member of staff, including bar staff or door supervisors if you use them. You should, however, ensure that you have a company policy which deals with issues regarding the admission or service of customers and that it is communicated and trained to all your staff.
What would be your top tips for training staff on refusing entry or service?
It’s important to ensure that your staff, including door staff, are aware of the signs of intoxication, such as glazed eyes, slurred speech, unsteady on their feet, poor coordination, and so on.
They should have a knowledge of the ABV and alcohol units of your drinks and be aware that they should encourage customers to drink water and eat food where food is available.
If they are in any doubt as to whether a customer is drunk, then they should refuse service, but they should be aware that they should avoid confrontation and give clear reasons for the refusal.
You should advise them of your company policy in relation to intoxication and the law surrounding this, including irresponsible drinking.
Do I need to keep a refusals log?
This depends on your individual premises licence conditions. Your premises licence may have a condition which states that you should maintain a written refusals log which records things such as refusals of entry and refusals of service. If your premises does have such a condition, then you must ensure that you comply with this, otherwise you will be in breach of your premises licence and could face enforcement action.
If there is no requirement under the conditions of your premises licence, then you may still decide it would be good practice to keep a written record of refusals so that you can keep a record of the reasons for refusal, for example, on the grounds of prevention of crime and disorder, so that if this is questioned at a later date, you have something to refer back to.
Is there anything else I should consider?
Children entering licensed premises can be a particular concern for you and it is important to remember that if your premises are used primarily or exclusively for the sale and consumption of alcohol, children under the age of 16 are not permitted to enter your premises, unless they are accompanied by an adult.
If your premises are not mainly used for the sale and consumption of alcohol, for example, if you’re a restaurant or a gastropub, unaccompanied children are not permitted to be present between the hours of midnight and 5:00 AM if alcohol is being sold.
It is also important to check your premises licence for conditions restricting the access to certain categories of customers, for example children, and it is of course a criminal offence to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18.
However, we would always recommend that you seek specialist legal advice if you have any concerns about working practices in relation to the refusal of entry or service of customers to your premises or if you receive notification of any complaints or enforcement action.
Well, thank you for joining and listening to this month’s episode.
Based on the conversation that we’ve had with Natasha today, I hope that you were able to gain a better understanding and insight into the right to refuse service and denying entry on your premises.
If you have any further questions regarding this, please feel free to contact Natasha on her e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org or please feel free to contact any of our other licensing solicitors which you can find on our website and Poppleston Allen on all our other social media platforms.
Thank you for listening.
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