Parental discretion is advised

If you visit a pub or family restaurant during school holidays or during the day on weekends, you may see some ‘unruly’ child behaviour. It stresses out other parents who are trying to keep their children from following suit. It also continues to be a burden to pub operators who are just trying to get through the working day.

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A recent solution, set by JD Wetherspoons, was to moderate a child’s energetic nature by limiting parents’ alcoholic drinks. While seeing customers sharing a bottle of wine on a Friday night with their children in tow, may not seem like negligent parenting, it appears across the hospitality industry there are some procedures in place to discourage adults drinking while in control of their children at the pub.

Recently JD Wetherspoon put up a poster to emphasis their rule of restricting parents with children to two alcoholic drinks to deter unruly behaviour. This policy is at the discretion of the manager, but are such procedures necessary?

It is fair to say that the safeguarding of a child could be compromised by drinking irresponsibly. By the many press stories you can find, you can see why there is an excellent reason to have a rule like this in place. (Even David Cameron left his 8-year-old daughter in the pub after a Sunday drink! There was no suggestion that he had drunk too much, but just shows that there is always the potential to make errors in judgement.)

Ruining the ambience

The ‘spoons in question was the Robert Pocock in Gravesend, Kent. On 19th January 2020, the landlord put up the poster again, re-highlighting their policy. The notice read; “As part of our licensing, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are protecting children from harm. Therefore, adults in charge of children will be allowed one alcoholic drink and a further alcoholic drink with a sit-down meal.”

A spokesperson for Wetherspoons said; “The reason is that we don’t want children being unruly in pubs and parents thinking they can continue to drink while this happens.”

A rule like this is discretionary to any pub manager. Still, you could argue that unruly and out-of-control behaviour are valid reasons why a manager would implement it. Pubs generally have the right to refuse to serve whomever they wish, as long as this is not discriminatory. Children are allowed to enter a pub unless it has a particular licence condition not letting them to be permitted.

Many are arguing that the ambience of the British institution is being ruined by screaming babies and children whose parents allow them to run riot.

Common sense

Every situation is different. It has been a crime since 1902 to be drunk in charge of a child under the age of seven in a public place, and the offence can be punished by a fine or up to a month in jail. A pub is only protecting themselves as well as the adult from potential prosecution. Section 141 of the 2003 act prohibits the sale of alcohol to a person who is drunk. However, most parents understand that they have a responsibility and do not drink to excess.

A child-friendly environment

The environment in a pub is typically dark, loud, stagnant and lacking playful stimulation that promotes learning and social connections. You could argue, young children would benefit more from open spaces with freedom to play, move and explore.

That’s not to say that children shouldn’t know how to behave in a pub. Otherwise, when they turn 18 and can legally enjoy an alcoholic drink, the environment may feel strange and uncomfortable.

What’s your rule?

Despite the controversy, the beloved British tradition of the pub is viewed as a safe place for people to escape the real world. Whether a publican has an alcoholic drink restriction in place or not, pubs can be an enjoyable place for families.

So, with summer on the horizon, and after many weeks of lockdown, pubs up and down the country can expect lots of patrons through the doors. Fundamentally, the need for an alcoholic drink restriction boils down to responsible behaviour on both the children and parents part.

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