Voluntary challenge scheme could be forced on retailers

12 January, 2007

QThe law states that those over 18 can buy alcohol. Is it possible, as I have had suggested to me, that local authorities can insist on retailers refusing sales to those younger than 21?

AThe Challenge 21 scheme is voluntary and has played a major role in reducing sales to under-18s as it increases the margin of error. There are no plans to make it a legal requirement as far as we know.

But should you fall foul of the local licensing authority you could find that certain conditions are suddenly attached to your licence that weren't there before.

One store in Hertfordshire which sold alcohol to a 15-year-old during a test purchase was recently fined £600 and had its licence reviewed.

The shop has been ordered to refuse sales to anyone under 21 without ID. It has also been told to maintain a refusals book and install till prompts for all alcoholic products, urging the cashier to ask for ID.

QWhat's the most northerly vineyard in the British Isles?

A It's possible that there are some small private vineyards with an even more northerly latitude - we've all heard ­stories about grapes growing in Scotland - but, on a commercial scale, Mount ­Pleasant Vineyard in Bolton le Sands, Lancs, claims that honour. We doubt they're famous for their Syrah, though.

Q What exactly is a scrumpy cider?

AThere is no official line on this, but it generally refers to simple cider with no additives,

usually originating from the West Country. For branding purposes the word is virtually meaningless - purists would argue that Scrumpy Jack is not scrumpy at all.

The Campaign for Real Ale has coined the term "real cider" and issued a checklist for producers to adhere to if they want Camra's endorsement. It basically amounts to a diktat forbidding pasteurisation and artificial flavourings and a juice content of at least 90 per cent. It does, however, allow sweeteners in order to produce varying styles of cider. But there is no mention of dead rats.

Q A member of my staff wants to apply for a personal licence. I have discovered he has a drink-driving conviction in his native Australia. Will this count against him, and does he even need to declare it?

A Any criminal record will be considered as part of the application and your employee is compelled to declare the offence. The police have the option of seeking more information from the ­local

constabulary in Australia as part of its ­decision as to whether the applicant is fit to hold a licence and will be capable of upholding law and order.

It's advisable to be as honest and upfront as possible with the police and local authority. Failure to answer their questions frankly and promptly may be interpreted as evasion tactics and

may only make the personal licence harder to obtain.

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