As a pub landlord or other licence holder, it’s important to understand the law relating to children in pubs and other licensed premises. Breaking the law in this area can have serious consequences for you and your business.


Are children allowed in pubs?


In the UK, pubs and other licensed premises must follow the conditions set under their individual premises licence. The premises licence may include any or all of the following:


a. Restrictions on the hours when children may be present.

b. Restrictions on the parts of the premises to which children under a certain age may have access, such as prohibiting children from the bar area.

c. Restrictions or exclusions on the presence of children under a certain age when particular activities are taking place.


Generally speaking, children may be allowed to enter a pub, or other licensed premises, unless there is a specific licence condition that states children are not to be permitted. However, licensees typically operate their own policy on children to help manage risk and avoid penalties for breaching their licence.

For example, if your pub is open all day, you may require accompanied children to leave by a certain time. Or you may simply decide you want an adults-only venue and not allow any under-18s onto the premises at any time. ‘Blanket’ rules like this can often be easier to implement and enforce.


Requirements for children to be accompanied by an adult


As a licensee, you have overall discretion over who is permitted entry to your premises and at what times, and whether to refuse to serve someone. However, it is an offence to allow a child under the age of 16 to be unaccompanied on licensed premises between the hours of midnight and 5am when the premises are open for the purposes of being used for the sale and consumption of alcohol. Even if your pub is food-led, rather than “exclusively or primarily” for the supply and consumption of alcohol, you are not permitted to admit under 16’s after midnight.

As a licence holder you will be guilty of a criminal offence if you allow a child to be on your premises unless:


a. The unaccompanied child is on the premises solely for the purpose of passing to or from some other place and there is no other convenient means of access or egress.

b. You believed that the unaccompanied child was aged 16 or over or that an individual accompanying him was aged 18 or over, and you had taken all reasonable steps to establish the individual’s age; or nobody could reasonably have suspected from the individual’s appearance that s/he was aged under 16 or, as the case may be, under 18.


Can children drink alcohol in pubs?


The law is also strict in relation to the consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 18 on licensed premises. In England and Wales:


a. It is illegal to sell alcohol to someone under the age of 18 anywhere.

b. It is illegal for someone under the age of 18 to buy or attempt to buy alcohol.

c. It is illegal for an adult to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under the age of 18.

d. It is illegal for an adult to buy alcohol for someone under the age of 18 for consumption on licensed premises, save except where this is the purchase of beer, wine or cider to be drank by a 16 or 17 year old with a table meal where they are accompanied by an adult.

e. It is illegal for an adult to buy spirits for a 16 or 17 year old even if this is with a table meal and they are accompanied by an adult.

f. It is illegal for someone under the age of 18 to drink alcohol in licensed premises, except where they are 16 or 17 years old and accompanied by an adult. In this case, it is legal for them to drink, but not buy, beer, wine and cider with a table meal.


Penalties for breaking the law


It is not uncommon for the police or trading standards to test licensees and their staff on the laws relating to children in pubs. Offences arising out of unaccompanied children and underage sales can attract tough financial penalties, as well as the risk of temporary closure or revocation of your licence.

For permitting an unaccompanied child under the age of 16 to be on your premises during opening hours where you fall within the restriction, you will be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to £1,000.

If you are found guilty of selling alcohol to a child under the age of 18, you will potentially be at risk from the following:


a. An unlimited fine, unless it can be shown that reasonable steps were taken to verify the customer’s age.

b. A closure order for a maximum of 14 days following persistent underage sales, defined as happening on just two or more occasions in a 3 month period.

c. A potential suspension or revocation of your licence for breach of the licensing objective relating to the protection of children from harm.


How can I avoid breaking the law?


If you are pub landlord or other licensee, you should take all necessary steps to prevent unaccompanied children from entering your premises and to avoid underage sales, or risk tough penalties.

It is in any event a mandatory requirement for all licensed premises to have an age verification policy in relation to the sale or supply of alcohol. Many licensees use Challenge 21 or Challenge 25.

These are retailing strategies whereby anyone buying alcohol who appears to be below the ages of 21 or 25, can be asked to provide an acceptable form of ID. This must be identification bearing their photograph, date of birth, and either a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature.

The following steps are just some of the other ways in which you can demonstrate your commitment to responsible licensing:


a. Provide regular staff training on the law relating to unaccompanied children on licensed premises and underage sales, and how to verify a customer’s age. This should include what are acceptable forms of ID and how to spot fake ID.

b. Only accept suitable forms of ID as proof of age, ie; photographic driving licence, a passport or a proof of age card, such as the PASS card from the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme bearing the PASS hologram.


If you are unsure about the validity of any ID, use your discretion to refuse entry or service. It is also within your discretion as a licensee to refuse a proxy sale, for example, the sale of alcohol made by an adult on behalf of a child aged 16 or 17 with a table meal.

Display posters in prominent places, for example, at the door and behind the bar, to advertise your age verification policy. This will help not only deter underage customers, but will help to back up any challenge that your staff may be required to make.

Support your staff in applying your age verification policy. Any difficult decisions made by staff not to serve a customer alcohol or to permit entry should not be undermined.

If you run a public house or other licensed premises that serve food, it may be difficult to determine whether those premises are primarily used for the supply of alcohol to which the restriction relating to unaccompanied children will apply. It is therefore advisable to discuss this issue with enforcement agencies to establish where you stand.




Are children allowed in pubs?

Yes, children can be allowed in pubs under certain conditions set by the pub’s premises licence, such as restricted hours or areas where children may be present. The decision often rests with the pub’s policy, and children under 16 must not be unaccompanied on licensed premises between midnight and 5am​​.


Can children drink alcohol in pubs?

It’s illegal for someone under 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol, or for an adult to buy alcohol for them. However, 16 and 17-year-olds may consume beer, wine, or cider with a meal if accompanied by an adult, but they cannot buy the alcohol themselves​​.


What are the supervision requirements for children in pubs?

Children under 15 must be supervised at all times and are typically allowed in pubs from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm (extended to 10:00 pm from May to September). Special rules apply to children under 16 between midnight and 5am​​.


Can babies and toddlers go to pubs, including beer gardens?

Yes, babies and toddlers can accompany adults in pubs, including beer gardens. The outdoor setting of beer gardens is generally considered child-friendly​​.


What time do children have to leave a pub?

There are no blanket restrictions for the presence of children in pubs. However, it’s an offence to allow unaccompanied children under 16 on premises primarily used for alcohol sales between midnight and 5am. Pubs may have their own policies regarding children, often influenced by their licence conditions​​.


Are there any areas in pubs where children are not allowed?

While there’s no general legal restriction on where children can be in pubs, local magistrates may set specific conditions as part of a pub’s licence. These conditions can limit children’s access to certain areas or times. Pubs often have their policies based on these conditions​​.


Can children be at the bar in pubs?

This varies based on the specific conditions set for each pub. Some pubs may allow it, while others may restrict children from being at the bar or in certain areas​.


How does the presence of children in pubs vary by UK region?

The general rules apply across the UK, but specific licence conditions may vary by region, affecting how children can be accommodated. It’s always best to check with individual pubs for their specific policies​​.


Legal disclaimer


The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.




The Law on Children in Pubs 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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