One of Britain's largest pub chains has banned customers from having more than two drinks if they have children with them. The move by JD Wetherspoon, which owns 683 pubs throughout the UK, emerged only after a man from Wallasey, Merseyside, who tried to order a third drink and a meal was told he could not be served on "child cruelty" grounds.
Stephen Gandy, 44, was waiting for his wife to join their party of seven adults, including a mother with her two-year-old child, shortly after Christmas.
Having unwittingly already drunk their limit, they were refused service when they went to order their meal. The health and safety consultant, who was a regular at the pub with his two teenage children, said: "The adults had two drinks each but the mother of the toddler was not drinking alcohol as she had come down from Scotland and was driving.
"I just could not believe it. I was told we could not be served any more drinks even though we were ordering food, to prevent cruelty to children under the Licensing Act. I was furious.
"We were basically told that we could only have more alcoholic drinks if the two-year-old and the mother left. We left. It was embarrassing not to be served. My gripe is that you should make the policy more visible so the customers are aware."
Mr Gandy said he would often take his children, aged 13 and 15, to the pub for a meal with his wife but had not heard of the restriction before.
A JD Wetherspoon spokesman, Eddie Gershon, said: "We are not in any way a children's pub with an activity centre. It is not a wonderful day out for children spending hours in the pub.
"Once customers have finished the meal with the child, we would expect them to leave soon after. We are not uncomfortable with children being on the premises as it is commercially viable. We would let an adult order an alcoholic drink with a meal and another drink after that.
"Coffee is more welcome than ordering alcohol but not ordering three or four coffees. We don't want children there bored while adults drink. "
Neil Williams, from the British Beer and Pub Association, said that it was not industry policy to limit the number of drinks that a customer with children could consume.
He said: "This is an issue for JD Wetherspoon. It is not typical of the pub trade as a whole.
"Pubs have become much more family-friendly in recent years and many offer great food and deals for children so that parents are made to feel very comfortable bringing their young ones in with them."
The JD Wetherspoon chain was started by the entrepreneur Tim Martin in 1979.
Having named his first pub after his maths teacher, Mr Martin built his empire and a 150m fortune on the back of a rigid formula of cheap meals and reasonably priced beer.Reuse content