News When it is right to refuse service

Refusing service and denying entry are always tricky issues - here is our overview of the main legal and operational points to bear in mind

  • Date: 19 March 2015
  • Author/Solicitor: Dave Bittiner

Refusing service and denying entry are always tricky issues for licensees.

I recently heard a story about a publican who refused serviceto a six foot six, seventeen stone transvestite. He became concerned that his existing customers were on the verge of ejecting the man, and the owner chose to refuse service on the grounds that he (the licensee) was not promoting the licensing objective of preventing crime and disorder.

Many publicans with some knowledge of the old law under the 1964 Licensing Act will be familiar with the fact that it was against the law for the holder of a justices’ licence to permit drunkenness or any violent, quarrelsome or riotous conduct.

These provisions were of course swept away by the Licensing Act 2003. Here is a brief overview of the some of the main legal and operational points to bear in mind when considering service within and entry to licensed premises.

  1. The starting point for any discussion on the right of entry is that a “public house” is not a “public place” and a member of the public cannot insist on being there.

  2. There is a common law right to refuse entry to whom he/her chooses, provided the refusal is not on grounds of sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Being refused actual entry to premises is a simple extension of the right of refusal to serve.

  3. A door supervisor is acting on behalf of, or under instructions from the licence holder and therefore can exercise the right of refusal on the licence holder’s behalf.

  4. It is unlawful to discriminate in providing goods or services to the public on grounds of sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Otherwise, a customer can be refused service. Take care to ensure that a customer is not suffering from a medical condition which might appear to have the same characteristics as someone who is drunk.

  5. When considering whom to allow into your premises and who to serve, always bear in mind the promotion of the licensing objectives, especially preventing crime and disorder and protecting children from harm.

  6. Check your Premises Licence for conditions restricting access to certain categories of customers. E.g. Children.

  7. Children entering licensed premises can be a particular cause for concern for owners of licenced premises. Remember that if your premises are used mainly for the sale and consumption of alcohol, children under the age of 16 are not permitted to enter those premises unless accompanied by an adult.

  8. Bear in mind that in premises not used mainly for the sales and consumption of alcohol (like a restaurant, gastro pub or similar) unaccompanied children under the age of 16 are not permitted to be present between the hours of midnight and 5am if alcohol is being sold. And of course, it is a criminal offence to sell alcohol to a person aged under the age of 18.

  9. Remember, a drunken person must always be refused entry and service.

  10. Make you sure have a policy to deal with issues regarding the admission and service of customers and that the policy is communicated to and trained into your staff.