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The Sale of Alcohol, Who Can Buy It, When and Where

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 28 Sep 2022 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Drinking Alcoholism Alcohol

Alcohol is readily available in a surprising number of easily accessible outlets. The sale of it is no longer the privilege of dedicated off-licences. Corner shops, mini-markets and the ever-popular high street supermarkets all stock a vast range of alcoholic beverages.

Although staff training for alcohol sales should be rigorous, strict compliance is sometimes difficult to adhere to, particularly as anyone wanting to purchase alcohol will find a way around the restrictions if they want to. The purchase of intoxicating liquor, by anyone under the age of 18, is strictly against the law, and yet this rule does little to dissuade minors from attempting to, and succeeding in, purchasing and consuming it.

Who Can Buy It

It is a well-documented fact that the law states anyone under the age of 18 should not be sold alcohol. Any one who is in fact 18, or over, should also not be sold alcohol if the purchase is intended to be consumed by a minor. However, there is a slight loop-hole there as an adult parent is allowed to purchase alcohol, that a minor may drink, provided it is consumed in the privacy of their own home. An exception like this starts to create confusion with regards to what is and isn’t allowed, and results in incidents where alcohol is sold incorrectly.

A lesser-known fact is that anyone under the age of 18 shouldn’t even enter a dedicated off-licence, unless in the company of a parent or guardian.

Selling alcohol to anyone already intoxicated is also against the law, and staff are trained to look for signs, in order to prevent the drunken person from endangering themselves. Slurred speech, staggered movements and uneasy swaying will all be noted by watchful staff members, and your purchase will not be allowed.

Identification Parade

It is increasingly difficult to correctly gauge a young person’s age. No matter how strict a training programme each staff member goes through there will usually be one example that slips through the net. Accepting proof of age, of anyone under the age of 18 is vital. Valid photographic identification is also required from anyone who is legally able to purchase alcohol but may look young for their age. Staff are taught that it is better to decline the sale of alcoholic beverages to someone, than to mistakenly sell it to a minor.

Practical guidelines are set up to provide the retailer with protection against unknowingly selling alcohol to minors. The national age card helps to protect a retailer from being prosecuted, so it is in their best interests to ask to see this card at every available opportunity. Vigilance, at all times, is also important, and besides checking a customer’s age the guidelines also suggest checking the quality, and mix, of the products being purchased. For instance, is the customer buying a number of smaller products instead of a larger bottle of the same quantity?

A Time And A Place

The permitted hours, for the purchase of alcohol, vary depending on the type of retailer. Dedicated off-licences will have longer opening hours, and may operate different time restrictions during public or Bank holidays. Whatever the hours are, it remains an offence to buy and consume any type of alcoholic beverage within a 100 metres of the shop it was bought from.

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My fiancé is an alcoholic, I have tried numerous times to prevent shops from selling her alcohol when she is intoxicated, But all but one continue to serve her even though I have cited her ill health and mental health issues
Teddyboy - 28-Sep-22 @ 1:56 PM
I feel utter despair. My son 52 has suffered with mental health for many years and 6 years ago became partially disabled. He drank but not like now. He goes to the local co-op each day in his wheelchair and buys beers and more recently spirits. I support him but cannot support his habit. I will ask the co-op staff not to sell ridiculous amounts of alcohol each day as they must have a moral duty to customers or duty of care. I do say to my son that they won't care about his health but happy to take his money. What is the moral duty or duty of care in this respect to selling alcohol, please?
Bridget - 9-Aug-20 @ 8:10 AM
How old does a personneed to be to put out stock of alcahol in a supermarket in uk
Gar - 14-Nov-19 @ 8:46 PM
My 26 yr old daughter went to a shop with her 26 yr old friend With them were 3boys ( brothers ) age 13, 14 and 8 ID was requested My daughter showed ID The shop assistance said she needed ID from everyone in the group They did not have ID Her reasoning was that she could have been buying the alcohol fro those in the group I intervened and asked the question So are you saying that if I go to buy alcohol in a shop with my children then you will not sell it to me unless they can all produce ID This is surely not correct The shop keeper said that this would not be an issue for me because I look my age ( 52) I don’t understand why it is not an issue for me and why it is an issue for and adult who looks young and has proved her age
Mags - 25-Jul-19 @ 1:21 PM
I just witnessed two cashiers in a small shop near me selling alcohol to visibally under 25 people.Both of the a boy and a girl bought age restricted products.The boy who was in front of me on the till bought a can of beer and cigarettes and the cashier failed to scan the laminated label before opening the cupboard withe the cigarettes and failed to ask the boy for proof of age.He was visibly 16-17 old.The girl was about 17 and bought cigarettes and again the other cashier failed to ask for proof of age and did not scan the laminated label.
sparta - 16-Mar-19 @ 7:11 PM
I have just watched a landlord buy a box of cans for £10 and followed him to his pub and he charged me £2.70 for a can that cost him 80p is this not against the law to do this??? And were do I complain???
ombit22 - 3-Mar-19 @ 8:59 PM
There are so many issues about selling alcohol in stores.And even though I have work in alcohol-selling stores for over 15 years, I am still not sure about all laws and legislation pertaining to selling the stuff. For instance, I once jokingly asked an elderly and jovial man for his ID, and he just smirked at me, and I passed the transaction across.A customer behind him, reprimanded me saying that 'once' I ask a customer for his/her Id, it 'HAS' to be produced - without which the sale should not be deemed. Is this true? And could someone please conform this and also other issues that may arise with selling alcohol.. •And while at it, I would like to tell of a related incident. A young girl once came to buy alcohol when I worked at a forecourt.When I asked for her Id, she told me that she did not have it, but that she was 20 years old.And I then told her that I needed to see her Id toprove that, at which she told me that she could not drive a car if she was under 18. And my reply to that was: " If you are under 18 and you drive a car, that is the police's problem and not mine. And that she could be 12 and still drive a car".She was stumped.And I refused the sale.I won.
Letus - 12-Feb-17 @ 5:25 PM
Hi Can anyone tell me when alcohol was legal to sell outside of Pubs and off licenses (i.e. in super markets and corner shops) please. i'm thinking it may have been mid 1970's
Deano - 11-Dec-16 @ 4:10 PM
Hi, this is more of a curiosity question as i cant find any law or info anywere. Can a licencee of a pub buy alcohol from a supermarket to sell on over the bar. Is there any legislation in british law againt this? As many are now selling alcohol cheaper than wholesales.
charlie - 24-Nov-16 @ 10:39 PM
Lisap78 - Your Question:
I've asked my local shop keeper not to sell alcohol to my partner as he is an alcoholic and is on medication that states do not drink but he still does. Is there any law or rule to make him stop?

Our Response:
It is illegal to knowingly sell alcohol, or attempt to sell alcohol, to a person who is drunk. It is also illegal to allow alcohol to be sold to someone who is drunk. There are no rules about selling to alcoholics.
AlcoholIssues - 18-Nov-16 @ 2:25 PM
I've asked my local shop keeper not to sell alcohol to my partner as he is an alcoholic and is on medication that states do not drink but he still does. Is there any law or rule to make him stop?
Lisap78 - 17-Nov-16 @ 4:51 PM
I was recently refused alchol on a Sunday as they said it had gone passed 4pm But I had already been in the shop buying food before 4pm and before the doors had locked.. Surely I should be allowed to buy it as was already on the premises before 4pm and before they looked the doors?? And if not..surely they shouldn't of been allowed to serve the food also as your only allowed to be open for 6hrs trading? If anyone knows or where I can find the information that would be great :) Tom
Husseyboy - 5-Oct-14 @ 4:18 PM
@Airborne. There is nothing to stop you making this request of the shopkeeper, but neither is there anything to force him to comply with your wishes. It is not, after all, the shopkeeper's problem and unless she is already intoxicated when making the purchase, there is nothing in law that can prevent him selling it to her. If she is willing to go with you and the shopkeeper is willing to participate then you could give it a try - although an alcoholic will go to any lengths to get hold of drink so she may simply go elsewhere. One positive aspect of this is that she seems to have recognised she has a problem and she has your support in trying to overcome it. This is a huge initial step in any recovery process. As always, an organisation like Alcoholics Anonymous may help.
AlcoholIssues - 25-Sep-14 @ 9:49 AM
My partner is an alcoholic, she will consume a bottle of vodka a day if she can get hold of it, if she could get it she would consume 3-4 bottles of vodka a day drinking until she is sick and passes out. Can I stop the local corner shop and co-op from selling her alcohol ? When sober she would agree to such action even going to the respective stores with me to say it is her wishes.
Airborne - 24-Sep-14 @ 10:38 PM
I am interested in all licensing matters and am aware the age of entry, unaccompanied, into premises licensed for the sale and consumption of alcohol is 16years. Where then please is the legislation to be found for the statement in your article: "A lesser-known fact is that anyone under the age of 18 shouldn’t even enter a dedicated off-licence, unless in the company of a parent or guardian." and where, please, does the age of 18 come from for off-licences and where is legislation covering a "dedicated off-licence" to be found? Thank you Geoffers
Geoffers - 4-Oct-13 @ 4:26 PM
I am 20 and find that I get asked for ID in shops more than I do in pubs and clubs. I work in a shop that sells alcohol and feel that we are very strict on asking for ID and we apply 'challenge 25', where if the customer looks 25 or under we ask them to prove their age. I think some shops are more relaxed on checking ID than others.
Vic - 1-Apr-11 @ 11:37 PM
I think alcohol is quite easy for teneagers to get from shops as they don't really ID anyone , where in clubs it's hard for teenagers to get in as the are stronger with ID checking.
danni - 28-Mar-11 @ 10:01 AM
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