The Law on Serving Drunks

The British Beer and Pub Association works alongside Drinkaware to raise awareness of the law surrounding the serving and buying of alcohol for drunk people.

With input from the Home Office and in support of their Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, the BBPA has rejuvenated its poster campaign designed for use by licensed premises. This will help raise awareness of the laws on buying alcohol for a drunk person, or knowingly selling alcohol to a drunk person.

The BBPA has worked alongside Drinkaware and National Pubwatch to create the campaign, which aims to support staff in upholding the law and ensuring a safe and friendly drinking environment for all. The BBPA continues to work alongside Drinkaware on the campaign.

The posters are free for licensees to download from the BBPA and Drinkaware websites. The BBPA has also produced two animations based on research we’ve commissioned from YouGov to gauge current awareness of the laws:

Law on Serving Drunks Poster

Law on Serving Drunks Animation

Mate's in a State Poster

Mate's in a State Animation

Can't get served?

Legal framework

It is an offence under the Licensing Act 2003 to sell to, or obtain alcohol for a person who is drunk on licensed premises.
In practical terms this includes:

  • Selling an alcoholic drink to someone who you know is drunk
  • Buying an alcoholic drink for someone who you know is drunk

Staff in licensed premises can find themselves in a very difficult position and risk breaking the law if they feel pressurised to serve drunk customers.

Our resources provide important information to help staff enforce the law.
Although there is no legal definition of drunkenness, the Section 182. Guidance to the Licensing Act highlights the offences and the significant penalties for not complying with the law in this area.

These include:

  • A fine for the individual of up to £1,000
  • The risk of losing a premises licence if the premises are taken to review based on this issue

BBPA members have also played their part in a range of initiatives to promote responsible drinking.

Such initiatives include:

  • Giving consumers a wider choice of lower strength drinks and smaller measures
  • Providing clear, accessible alcohol unit awareness information in pubs
  • Members are also working to prevent underage sales through the successful Challenge 21 campaign
  • BBPA also provide funding for Drinkaware and their work in providing evidence based information on alcohol and responsible drinking.