If you are in Spain tonight – or at another time – the Galician authorities warn that letting your child or teenager have a sip of sherry or cava whether to toast the New Year or otherwise could cost you €3,000 fine; this is not just in the north western region but anywhere in Spain.
Under-18s are not allowed alcohol in any form and may not enter any parties or events where alcohol is served unless they are with an adult aged 18-plus, and only consume soft drinks.
On New Year’s night, many parents allow their kids to go out to parties on their own – especially as most of Spain is generally safe enough for unaccompanied youngsters to go out at night – but many of these advertise ‘all drinks except premium’ ones included in the ticket price, or ‘happy hours’, in order to sell as many entries as possible.
Galicia recalls that for the past six years, regional laws prevent under-18s entering parties like these unless they are with someone aged 18 and over who is legally responsible for them.
This means older friends may have to bear the extremely onerous duty of keeping their younger pals off the drink, on pain of legal action if they do not – especially if this alcohol consumption leads to medical problems.
And similar laws are in force in many other regions.
Bar owners are legally liable if they allow their staff to serve alcohol to minors, but any accompanying adult – even an 18-year-old with a 17-year-old friend – is criminally responsible if he or she orders drinks for the underage consumer.
Youngsters under 18 are allowed to buy their own tickets for parties like this, since it is on the assumption they will be with an adult and will not drink – the party organisers, or the venue, are required to ensure that nobody under 18 enters alone or with others who are underage.
Police in Galicia have said they often carry out random inspections and, when they see a child or young teenager with a glass of champagne, a shot of liqueur or a small glass of beer, they are usually with their parents who say: “We gave it to him/her, it’s okay.”
But it is not okay, officers warn: “The parental philosophy of, ‘they’re going to drink alcohol either way, so if that’s the case, at least if we’re with them when they do it’s safer’, is not good enough,” said a spokesman for the regional force.
“The law is no more lenient just because it’s New Year’s Eve. Even a half a flute of cava when the consumer is aged 17 is enough to get the parents fined €3,000, and the bar, too, if they were aware that the young person in question was going to be drinking it.”
In some regions in Spain – including Galicia – advertising ‘two for the price of one’ or any other reduced price, except on the usual and official price list, is subject to a similar level of fine for ‘promoting alcohol consumption’.
Nightclubs, disco halls and bars hosting parties and events for children under 14 must stick to specific hours and separate the celebrations from those aimed at adults, and no alcohol may be served on the premises – in fact, alcoholic drinks may not even be on display, so staff should ensure a curtain or screen blocks bottles behind the bar, and any advertising for alcohol, from view.