A dad in Cambridge was left "fuming" having been barred from his local 'Spoons for buying his 13-year-old an alcohol-free cider, according to local news. But what would you do?
Cambridgeshire Live reported that Ian Richardson bought his son a bottle of alcohol-free cider at Wetherspoons' venue The Regal in the city.
At first staff served the teenager the drink with no issues, according to Ian, but then another member of staff came and asked for ID before taking the bottle from the table and a disagreement ensued, prompting Ian to report the incident to senior management, he claims.
Wetherspoons has disputed Ian's version of events and said, in a statement:
"It was explained to him (Ian) that if the drink has an alcohol content of 0.05 per cent, which (it did), then the under 18 should not be drinking it...When the pub manager approached the father, he became instantly defensive and repeated the same statements.
"Wetherspoon stands 100 per cent with the pub's manager and ...The gentlemen is now barred from the pub."
My understanding of the legal position is that selling a cider or beer below 0.5 per cent ABV to someone under the age of 18 would be fine, as drinks with this low level of ABV are classed as non-alcoholic. Low alcohol drinks, those of 1.2 per cent ABV and above cannot be served to under 18s, as those are classed as alcohol.
Beyond the legal issues though, how does it work in practice? Do you ask for ID for someone buying an alcohol-free cider, for example. Should you? If you think yes (because it is best practice to ask for ID as a matter of course), then should you do that to customers ordering a sparkling water as well?
Where do you draw the line at that point – I've heard it said that a very ripe mango has as much as 0.05 per cent alcohol in it. If that's true, then are greengrocers going to have to run Challenge 25 now?
That's taking it to an absurd level, of course but there is something about an under-18 drinking a non-alcoholic beer or cider that many people find uncomfortable and to be honest I'm one of them.
I realise the science. I get the legal position. But would I allow my 8-year-old an alcohol-free cider?
We're going to be looking into this further over the next few weeks and months, so if you have any experiences, opinions or questions you'd like to share, please do let me know via the usual channels: