Alcohol, young people under 18 and the law
There are strict laws on selling and drinking alcohol in licensed premises in Northern Ireland. You should check that you are not breaking the law by allowing your child to drink.
Anyone under the age of 14 may only drink alcohol in a private house and only for medical purposes.
However, because young people take longer to process alcohol than adults, it is a good idea for them to drink less, or not to drink at all.
Alcohol poses particular risks to young people under 15 and government advice is that children under this age should not drink.
Under 18 years old
A licensed premises or registered clubs may allow:
- a young person accompanied by an adult to be in the bar area (but not at the bar) in premises up to 9.00 pm (10.00 pm in registered sporting clubs)
- a young person to stay on the premises until 9.30 pm to consume a meal purchased before 9.00 pm
A young person under 18 is allowed to be in:
- an off-licence, if they are accompanied by an adult
- a licensed refreshment room at railway station, airport, harbour terminal or bus station
- the bar area in a sporting club until 11.00 pm between 1 May and 30 September and for three prize-giving ceremonies in a calendar year
- any part of an indoor arena or outdoor stadium containing a kiosk or other sales point which sells alcoholic drinks as well as food and non-alcoholic drinks
- premises authorised for under 18s functions like school formals, teen discos and also private functions like birthday parties and anniversary celebrations when specific conditions have been met (as outlined in the Department for Communities' guide in sections 14 and 15 for licensed premises and sections 36 and 37 for registered clubs)
Buying or drinking alcohol
Anyone under 18 is not allowed to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in a place other than a private house.
It is an offence for a person to:
- buy alcohol for someone under 18 years of age
- send a young person under 18 years of age to get alcohol from a licensed premises
It is an offence for a licence holder to:
- sell or deliver alcohol to a person under 18 for drinking on or off the premises
- sell or deliver alcohol to any person under 18 years of age, either on or off the premises
- permit a young person under 18 to drink alcohol in licensed premises
Towns and cities may also have local bye-laws banning drinking alcohol in public.
- Selling alcohol in licensed premises and registered clubs
- The Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996