Published: 03 August 2015
The sale of alcohol to and consumption by under 18s in licensed premises has always been considered an issue of the utmost seriousness by enforcing authorities and Licensing Sub-Committees alike.
Since 2010 there has been a Mandatory Condition that a Premises Licence Holder must have an age verification policy to deal with underage sales, and since October 2014 a further Mandatory Condition has required the Designated Premises Supervisor to ensure that that Policy is enforced on the ground (as opposed to Head Office). The message is clear – do not sell alcohol to children.
Below is an aide memoire of the main tools you can use to ensure that you do not break the law or fail a test purchase:
1. As licence holder you must ensure that an Age Verification Policy applies to the premises which, as a minimum, must require individuals who appear to be under the age of 18 years of age to produce on request, before being served alcohol identification bearing their photograph, date of birth and either a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature. Such ID can be a passport, photo card driving licence, PASS-approved card or military ID.
2. The DPS must enforce this Policy – ensuring not only that staff are aware of the Policy but are also applying it. Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 will often provide greater protection to you and your staff than the minimum legal requirement to challenge anyone who appears to be under 18.
3. Staff training – ensure all your staff are trained before they first start work at your premises, and that refresher training is regularly provided. It is important both that they understand their legal obligations and that you have proof that they do, so keep a record of the training and ask the member of staff to sign that they have understood it.
4. Remind members of staff that they themselves might be personally liable if they sell to young persons in breach of legal requirements.
5. Maintain a Refusals Log – all refusals should be recorded (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer if possible). Some tills of course have a refusals system built in but as always do not rely solely on electronic safeguards.
6. Staffing numbers – no Age Verification Policy can work if customers are nine deep at the bar and only one person is serving. Try as far as possible to ensure you have sufficient staff to give them time to properly assess the age of potential buyers and that senior management are available to assist if the situation becomes heated.
7. Door staff – these can act as the first line of defence with your bar staff as the second. Do not however allow your bar staff to become complacent simply because the door staff control admission to the premises.
8. ID Scan / Club Scan – for certain higher-risk venues this system can be very effective in eliminating underage sales.
9. Signage – posters displaying your policy on underage sales will make any potential underage buyers think twice about trying it on in your premises.
10. CCTV – again, used appropriately this can be a good deterrent.
11. Proxy sales – staff should remain vigilant to the age profiles of groups of customers to avoid adults purchasing alcohol destined for somebody under age.
12. More generally, consider the culture of your premises, your promotional material (both printed and online), the drinks and drinks promotions that you offer – if these inevitably attract a younger crowd then your policies and procedures will have to be more robust.
If you need any further information on alcohol licensing contact licensing solicitor Andy Grimsey on 0115 9538500.
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