COMMENT: Sell alcohol to kids and you will face consequences

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There was a time when visitors to America from the UK came back home perplexed, full of tales of how they’d been asked for ID when trying to buy alcohol – even when they were clearly over the USA’s legal age of 21.

But now that many places here operate a ‘challenge 25’ policy – where anyone who is buying alcohol and is lucky enough to look 25 or under will be asked for ID – it is not so unusual for folks to be asked to prove their age.

It has even led to some comical news stories where someone clearly of pensionable age has been refused a sale because they couldn’t provide valid ID.

However, for some venues it would seem this is not enough.

Holiday Inn Express, in Eastern Road, Farlington, has been caught selling booze to children three times in four months.

Considering the measures police believe were already in place – a ‘challenge 25’ policy, staff training and extra conditions on their licence – it is a bit hard to comprehend how the same thing can happen three times in such quick succession when these measures have been taken in a bid to try and prevent exactly this situation from occurring.

Calling them ‘mistakes’ would probably be charitable in this instance. Something has obviously gone awry.

When the council has said that the hotel ‘fully engaged’ with the police, it becomes even more perplexing.

We’re not being killjoys when we wholeheartedly support attempts to prevent alcohol sales to youngsters. It’s the law for a good reason.

Minors have attempted to buy alcohol and beat the law since time immemorial. Thankfully it has become much harder in recent years for shops, pubs – and hotels – to flout said law.

Test purchase operations, using 15 or 16-year-olds, have become commonplace. To slip up once is possible to understand but, given the resulting intervention from police and licensing and potential implications for the business, it is difficult to see how it can happen a second, let alone a third time in such quick succession.

The hotel now faces action, but it is hard to have much sympathy.