When Is A Pub Not A Pub?

As from 1 October 2013, a number of additional forms of ID have been added to the list of acceptable documents when trying to establish a person’s age in relation to the sale of alcohol. The acceptable forms of ID for proof of age are:

  • A passport
  • A European Union photocard driving licence
  • A photographic ID card bearing the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) hologram
  • A Ministry of Defence Form 19
  • A Biometric Immigration Document
  • A national identity card issued by a European Union member state (other than the UK) and photographic identity cards from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

But even if you were to enter a public house armed with legitimate ID the licensee has a legal right to refuse to serve you.  This right has been enshrined in common law for centuries.  A “public house” is not considered to be a “public place” so a member of the public cannot insist on being there.  He or she is there at the invitation of the licensee only and that invitation can be withdrawn at the whim of the licensee.  Similarly, a member of the public cannot insist on being served.  This extends to the right of a door steward acting on behalf of the licensee to refuse entry to a clubber if they so wish with no need to give a reason.

Some have argued that the right of refusal has been eroded by the adoption of the ECHR under the Human Rights Act 1998 but I think this argument is flawed.  The 1998 Act imposes obligations on public authorities but not on private businesses.  It is not a human right for you to be able to enter a pub.

Even so, a licence holder cannot refuse to serve someone on the basis of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010 such as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender identity and gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

So, licence holders must be very careful of the impact which the Equality Act 2010 may have on the common law right of refusal and they must be alert to the fact that although the right of refusal exists, it is in no way a “licence” to exercise prejudice.  If such prejudice is found to have occurred, the refusal will incur penalties.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , by Paul Neilly. Bookmark the permalink.

About Paul Neilly

Paul’s first degree was a BA Honours in Financial Services following which he spent five years working for a large insurance company as a pensions specialist. He then completed his law degree at the University of Strathclyde and Diploma in Legal Practice at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law. Paul subsequently joined Mitchells Roberton as a trainee in July 2006 and qualified as a solicitor in September 2008. Principally concerned with civil litigation, Paul specialises in contract disputes, landlord and tenant issues (commercial and residential), debt recovery, family law, employment law and personal injury claims. He also handles cases involving Adults with Incapacity. Paul regularly appears in the Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland and has experience of appearing before Licensing Boards and instructing matters in the Court of Session. Being a general civil litigator Paul is keenly aware of the need to keep step with developments in the law and legal education. This led Paul to join the committee of TANQ, the Trainee and Newly Qualified Society of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, in which role Paul currently organises seminars and networking events for its members. Paul is married with a young son and daughter. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, reading and watching sport, particularly following the exploits of the national football and rugby teams, although this is more of a vocation than a source of enjoyment.

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