Pair deemed too young to drink Coke

STEPHEN PULLINGER A strapping 20-year-old student was "gobsmacked" when a pub barmaid refused to serve him and his girlfriend because she thought they were underage - even though they only wanted a coke with their dinner.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A strapping 20-year-old student was "gobsmacked" when a pub barmaid refused to serve him and his girlfriend because she thought they were underage - even though they only wanted a coke with their dinner.

Six-footer Tim Meo, of Station Road, Lingwood, near Norwich, said the embarrassment was made all the greater by the fact that there were children in the bar when they were refused.

Mr Meo and his girlfriend Julia Deane, 18, of Spixworth, near Norwich, are students at Portsmouth University and were visiting J D Wetherspoon's pub, Lloyds No 1 Bar, in the city's Port Solent district for Sunday lunch.

He said: "We initially tried to order our dinners with a vodka and coke and glass of white wine but the barmaid said she did not think we were 18 and could not serve us without seeing a passport or driving licence.

"We both had our university ID cards with our name, photograph and date of birth and I had my sailing club ID but they were not deemed acceptable. Ironically, my sailing club ID gets me into the Royal Navy base where we do our sailing."

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Mr Meo, an e-business student who already runs his own powerboat charter company, became more perplexed when they changed their drinks order to cokes - and were still not served.

He said: "I was dumbstruck when she said she could not serve us at all.

"When I called for the manager, he said it was company policy not to serve anyone at the bar if they suspected they were not 18.

"I could not believe it. I don't look 15 and don't normally have this sort of trouble when I go in a pub."

A spokesman for the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) said Mr Meo's story was "bizarre". He said the law relating to age and sales was a mess and the TSI, which represents local authority trading standards officers, wanted legislation clarified and standardised.

A Wetherspoon spokesman said staff were following a company policy used by other reputable pub chains and backed by the police.

"We operate a policy whereby if staff have doubts and people cannot prove their age to our satisfaction, we will not serve them," he said.

"I know it looks weird because he wasn't asking for alcohol, but it's a policy designed to limit the chance of minors drinking, which is our priority.

"The manager was following the policy."

He said staff only accepted certain forms of identification because of the risk of certain kinds of cards being forged or copied.