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Reintroduce special licenses for premises to serve alcohol below the age limit

Comment 5th July 2010

My (private) school had a social centre for the A-level students – nice, relaxed place, with a little dancefloor, a couple of pool tables, and a small bar. The school, I'm told, had obtained a special license that allowed it to serve alcohol to 17 year olds, which covered the majority of A-level students. It was really nice to be able to spend a day in class, and then go to the centre to relax and sit around having a couple of drinks; the whole thing was supervised by the teachers, and they'd quickly cut off anyone who'd had enough (I think the limit was usually around 3 cans of weak lager in a night).

Since leaving, I've heard that the license they held was revoked – because all such licenses have been scrapped. 

I propose the reintroduction of this kind of license.

Why does this matter?

The ability to create a venue where young people can be introduced to drinking in a social, safe, and moderate environment is a vital component in reducing the binge drinking problem in this country. It's quite telling that when the license got dropped, all the 17-year-olds who'd previously been having a couple of cans of lager a night were now secretly chugging bottles of neat vodka behind the bike sheds.

It's particularly effective when run by a school, because the supervisors (teachers) can really bring down some consequences on students who abuse the facility.

It's different to drinking at home under the purview of parents. Social centres are places that young people can feasibly consider 'going out' to of a night – they can preserve the feeling of independence that you don't get from parental supervision.

It's also very good for pub culture, because these centres can effectively be 'pubs for young people,' teaching them how to behave in a civil manner around alcohol. They'd continue to behave with civility once turning 18, and would carry that civility into our pubs.

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