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.