UK drinking age
The legal drinking age in the United Kingdom
You can buy an alcoholic drink in the UK if you’re over the age of 18. A few words of advice: if you look young, you may be asked for identification – your passport should do the trick. Some pubs run identity-card schemes, but if you’re a visitor you probably won’t have one of these cards.
Minimum age limit
What may be somewhat confusing to visitors is the fact that some pubs, clubs and bars operate their own minimum age limit, a limit that’s above the minimum legal age. This can be 21, 23 or 25 and is entirely down to the discretion of the management. If they refuse to allow you in, don’t argue: it won’t get you anywhere other than chucked out into the street. There are plenty of other places to go.
Admittance to any establishment is at the discretion of the management – if they don’t want you in the place, there’s no legal obligation for them to let you in.
It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy an alcoholic drink or for anyone knowingly to purchase a drink for someone underage. It is also against the law for anyone running licensed premises (or their employees) to sell a drink to someone underage. There is an exception: it is not an offence to buy a drink for a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old in conjunction with a table meal in a restaurant as long as the meal is not in the bar area. Similarly, a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old can purchase a drink in a restaurant with a table meal under these restrictions.
Some pubs allow families in for meals and some don’t. Some even have areas where children can play, but they still require parents to supervise their offspring (although we hate pubs where this isn’t the case and the little terrors run riot).
Children under fourteen years of age are allowed into pubs that hold a children’s certificate. They must be accompanied by an adult and are restricted to those areas that have been certified suitable for young children. Pubs holding such a certificate must serve meals and nonalcoholic drinks, normally until 9 p.m.