Convenience stores will be required to operate age-verification programmes for the sale of alcohol from next month  – although there is still a chance of a last-minute change of heart by the government.

The Mandatory Code on alcohol retail, which comes into force on October 1, requires all licensed premises to have an age-check policy in place. This must ensure that anyone who looks under 18 is asked to show photographic ID with their date of birth on it before they are served alcohol. Passports, driving licences and hologram-marked PASS cards are acceptable proof of age.

C-stores which already run schemes such as Challenge 21 or Challenge 25, as well carrying out regular staff training and keeping a refusals book, will already be within the scope of the Code, but other licensed retailers now have to adopt similar procedures.

However, there is a possibility the requirement will be scrapped when Parliament returns from its summer break later this week. The government has suggested that this second stage of the Mandatory Code, which was established by the previous administration and also places restrictions on pubs and clubs, may be rejected as part of its current consultation on licensing. 

In particular, there is pressure from the on-trade to reconsider the age-verification requirement because of the high compliance costs. A decision is expected within the next few weeks.

Wine and Spirits Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles warned stores to prepare for the change. “It’s vital businesses are ready to comply,” he said. “I’d also urge those affected to respond to the government’s licensing consultation with evidence of the cost imposed on their business.”

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