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Praising and bitching - dorsetgirl
December 8th, 2012
11:20 pm
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Praising and bitching
Went to see Skyfall this afternoon, for middle son's birthday treat (he's 16 today). I really enjoyed it; I didn't bother when the rest of the family went to see it about a month ago, because I saw (I think) Quantum of Solace, and never understood a single minute of what was going on. But Skyfall was much more straightforward, and Daniel Craig is quite the sexy beast in it imo. Although I did prefer him with slightly longer hair. It was the first time I'd seen Javier Bardem in anything and I thought he was excellent, if you allow for scenery-chewing being a standard part of Bond villainy.

Anyway, afterwards we went to Frankie & Benny's for a meal, and I ordered a glass of wine for the birthday boy. When it arrived I directed it to him and they asked if he had any ID. (They didn't ask how old he was). I said no, and said I thought teenagers aged 14+ were allowed to drink wine with a meal providing they were with an adult who actually bought it. The waiter then wheeled a manager over who started off by calling me "love", patronising bitch (she was about 25). Anyway, I explained my understanding of the law and she said "No, that's just a loophole. The law says no alcohol at all for under-18s; there is a loophole for 17-year-olds but Frankie & Benny's choose not to go along with it."

When I said in that case they should make it clear on the wine list - because if I'd known I wouldn't have ordered it - she said "It's the law, it doesn't need to be on the wine list."

Anyway, I've now done some googling and as far as I can see, the law states "if you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal." So I was wrong on it being 14, but as he's 16 today it would have been perfectly legal for us to buy him a glass of wine to go with his meal.

So my question to Trading Standards on Monday is going to be "Are they allowed to refuse to sell us wine that we were attempting to buy perfectly legally? And if so, shouldn't they display a notice to that effect?" It was all very polite, but I was a bit upset and shaken after the conversation - I really can't handle conflict face to face - and my son felt very awkward. The manager really tried to make me feel I was doing something dirty and underhand and flat-out illegal.

Anyone got any experience or solid knowledge on this area of the law? When we were on holiday in October we bought a glass of wine each for the (then) 17- and 15-year-olds and no-one asked any questions at all. Of course, as the boys pointed out tonight, that was Norfolk.

ETA:This morning I spoke to some consumer-advice lot listed on the Trading Standards website and asked for clarification on the law. They said "It's a grey area; it's down to the individual business".

To which I replied that I didn't believe for one second that Frankie & Benny's had the right to decide the law in this country. He went back and talked to Trading Standards again and the bottom line is that (a) the law says that 16/17-year-olds may have ONE drink with a meal, if bought by an accompanying responsible adult ...er...

and (b) businesses can choose to refuse to serve people under 21 if they want to, and they are not required to have a sign up about this anywhere.

I finally found a FAQ on FB's website which seems to take an unpleasantly moralistic stance. It says, and I quote exactly:

"Frankie & Benny’s Responsible Drinking Policy

Why can’t a 16 or 17 year old be served alcohol in your restaurants when this is perfectly legal?

We extremely careful when guests utilise the ‘table meal’ aspect of the law to allow a 16 or 17 year old drink alcohol, purchased by an adult, with their meal. Whilst, legally, they can be allowed alcohol, as a company we need to ensure that no-one under 16 could be given alcohol in this manner."

So, they choose not to trust their customers; they choose to assume that their customers will lie to them and show false ID for their children, and they choose to retaliate in advance by lying to their customers about what the law actually says. Nice people.

Oh, I also saw it implied somewhere that the law has recently been changed from 14 with a meal to 16 with a meal, so I was kind of right. And how does it teach teenagers "responsible drinking" if you make it impossible for parents to take them out for a sensible drink, in company, with a meal? My idea of "responsible drinking" for teenagers does not include drinking at home!

ETA2: I realised afterwards that part of the problem is that I grew up in a completely different era, ie before alcopops. In those days, the test for the seller was not "have I seen sufficient ID?" but "can I convincingly claim that I believed this person was 18?" (Or 16, in this particular case). It never crossed my mind that they might have "a policy" and it never crossed my mind they might ask for ID.

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(5 comments | Leave a comment)

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Date:December 8th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
I suppose you could have side-stepped the issue by not giving him the wine until the server had walked away... but you were being honest! I understand feeling upset about that kind of public confrontation; they were being rude, I think. I don't have any knowledge of the law, though.

Re: Daniel Craig; YES. I want him. I was so amused to watch him host Saturday Night Live and do lots of comedy, when he seems to play dangerous men in movies all the time. Re: Javier Bardem; I don't usually go for disturbing movies, but I found No Country For Old Men absolutely mesmerizing all the way through. And... I think Bardem was in Vicky Christina Barcelona? That was fun.
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Date:December 10th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
you could have side-stepped the issue

The problem is, I had no idea there was going to be an issue! I was comfortable that what I wanted to do was completely legal. (As indeed it is.) What annoys me about their priggish "responsible drinking policy" (see update to post) is that that is precisely what I was trying to achieve - to introduce my son to alcohol in a sensible manner in safe and controlled surroundings. I don't want his first experience of alcohol to be in some park somewhere with people daring him to drink god knows what.

I don't see many films, but I've just google-imaged Bardem as himself and he is quite the man, isn't he!
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Date:December 9th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
That's how I understand the law as well. A person of 16 or 17 can drink alcohol with a meal if bought by an adult. If Frankie & Benny's dont wan't to serve alcohol to under 18's I expect that's their perogative, but they should make it clear when you're ordering. I hope you weren't made to pay for the wine, although I expect that was the least of your concerns.
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Date:December 10th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
No, we weren't charged for the wine, but the damage had been done by then.

I've updated the post with this morning's phone call.
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Date:December 10th, 2012 02:41 pm (UTC)
I've seen your edit and it is interesting. I work in an off-licence and we have a Challenge 25 policy in place (voluntarily, not because we're on special measures or anything). If you're not sure what this is, it means that if I think a customer is under 25 years of age I have to ask for proof that they're over 18, and if they can't provide satisfactory ID, then I have to refuse the sale. (If I think someone is buying alcohol with the intention of supplying to minors, I can refuse the sale anyway, but that's a separate issue.) The policy is displayed in at least three places that I can think of off-hand, so that it doesn't come as a shock to the customer.

What you were doing is legal and if the business has a different policy, surely it's in their own interest to display this policy somewhere (the menu would be a start). After all, they want your repeat custom. I do agree with you that how can we teach our children responsible drinking if they're not allowed one drink while out with the family.

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