I was disappointed to see this story about a licensee who had told a uniformed soldier it was "against the law" to serve someone in uniform (Sidcup Horse and Groom Harvester restaurant tells soldier to cover up uniform on Remembrance Sunday). Leaving aside the inevitable reader comments about lack of respect, was the manager right?
Actually, no. Under the old 1964 Licensing Act licensees had a duty to refuse to serve any kind of refreshment to "a constable in uniform unless with the permission of his superior officer", but that law has now been replaced by the 2003 Licensing Act, which contains no such duty. And the 1964 act only mentioned the police. It might well be a disciplinary offence for those in uniformed professions to be drinking on duty, but that's a matter for their employer and not the licensee's problem.
It might be sensible policy, though, not to sell alcohol to those whose uniforms imply that they might be driving - train, bus or taxi drivers perhaps - as licensees have a responsibility to prevent crime and protect public safety. Licensees have a DUTY to refuse alcohol those who are drunk or underage, but they have the RIGHT to refuse service to anyone unless it's on the grounds of protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act.
Looking at the reader comments on this news story, it's interesting that a few people have weighed in to say that the old law still applies. Since the 2003 Act was enacted in 2005, it's been mandatory for all new licensees to gain a licensing law qualification. Prior to that there was a grace period for existing licensees to transfer over to the new system under "grandfather rights" without being trained. Whilst there might still be a few independent licensees around who are blissfully unaware of current legislation, I'd like to think that large managed estates like Harvester are on top of staff training.
I always round off licensing law courses with an action planning session encouraging learners to think about how they're going to pass on what they've learned to the staff they supervise. Many offences under the 2003 Act can be committed by members of staff as well as license holders, and responsible supervisors should give staff all the tools, training and knowledge they need to work safely within the law (and avoid causing such negative publicity). If this story is true, then the manager was wrong, but perhaps his employers need to ask themselves why he based his decision on urban myth rather than fact.
(Thanks to @BrynBella for the heads-up about this story)
I've been working in hospitality and training one way or another for over 25 years. I love helping small hospitality businesses to develop. Follow me and my continuing training adventures here...