For those of you who do not work in the trade, you may or may not know that it is now illegal to pour alcohol without some kind of authorisation from a licence holder and the laws and rules surrounding said authorisation differ in Scotland and England. These rules are a no doubt a good thing. They promote safety, protect children, prevent crime and public nuisance.
They also appear to be working. Despite all of the negativity we see on the news, the actual statistics show us that with the police, the trade, the licensing boards and courts working together, alcohol related crime is in fact DOWN. Many cities in England have seen a reduction by up to 30%! This is because licensing policies are published locally allowing us to target local issues. great news!
The downside to these laws is that they are also some of the most boring pieces of legislation out there clearly written by people who have never worked in an off-licence or indeed behind a bar. This leads to some interesting and hilarious rules. (These apply only in England, the Scottish ones will appear after I have completed that course.)
Here’s my pick of the things I learned:
You’d think the people setting the rules would be qualified, right? Licensing Officers in England do not need to sit the course I have undertaken, but their Scottish counterparts go through rigorous and frequent courses
To promote responsible drinks promotions the Government have outlined a set of mandatory prohibitions, my favourite of which is “No alcohol is to be dispensed directly into the mouths of consumers.”
Premises licences must be obtained for any of the following activities:
Selling or supplying alcohol: the self explanatory one.
Entertainment: each activity MUST appear on the licence. These include live music, dancing, recorded music, lap dancing, pole dancing but NOT morris dancing as this is the right of every Englishman whether licensed or not. Incidentally one unlucky strip club in England got their licence for dancing, but forgot the one for music. Therefore their girls have to dance in silence.
Late night refreshments: Ever wonder why chip shops are shut before you stumble out of the pub? It’s because after 11pm they need a licence despite not selling alcohol!
All of the above leads to some rather unusual places needing licensed, or not as the case may be: most schools and churches are licensed, however Royal Palaces can serve alcohol without a licence (no one has the authority to police them; Government buildings can serve alcohol without a licence (floor plans can be confidential but would have to appear on a licence); Military bases can serve alcohol without a licence (combination of both reasons above); Trains, Planes, Boats and Hovercrafts can serve alcohol without a licence (they pass through many licencing jurisdictions and no-one wants to take responsibility.)
So do we all need licenses? No. Members of the public are allowed to organise up to 5 parties for up to 499 guests at which they sell alcohol without a licence.
Ever wondered why petrol stations serve booze? It’s because they sell more groceries than petrol. This is calculated as number of items, not value of goods, so that crap coffee and bag of crisps helped keep the beer in the fridge cold.
Under 18’s CANNOT buy the following:
cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, spoons.
Under 16’s CANNOT buy the following:
party poppers and Christmas crackers.
Under 18’s CAN sell:
Alcohol as long as each sale is authorised by a personal licence holder, unless in a restaurant, in which case no authorisation is needed.
16 and 17 year olds CAN drink beer, wine and cider with a meal if bought by an adult and consumed under their supervision.
Finally you CANNOT serve alcohol to any unsupervised person under the age of 18 in public, in a shop, in a bar but you CAN deliver it to them if they are at home, or if collecting alcohol is part of their job!
So the next time you’re in a shop or in a bar, make sure and spare a thought for the poor soul behind the counter who has had to wade through all of this legislation, just so they can bring a smile to your face at the weekend.