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Alcohol at motorway services

The Hope and Champion.
The pub at Beaconsfield services.

Between 1961 and 1994, motorway service areas were forbidden from selling alcohol. Many people believe that this rule still applies, but it does not. Service stations are allowed to apply for a licence to sell alcohol but often they will not be allowed to allow people to consume it on the premises, indoors or outdoors.

Beaconsfield services has a full JD Wetherspoon pub. It trades mostly on the food Wetherspoons serve, but the alcohol is available and they are expected to take the same precautions that any other roadside pub might have to so as to discourage drink-driving.

The earliest motorway services were allowed to serve alcohol with food. It was the licencing bill of 1961 that outlawed the sale of alcohol on land that the government owned next to motorways. This created a loophole where operators could build a hotel on their own land next door to their service area, and the hotel could then operate without government legislation.

When the motorway services were all sold off, a special rule was required to keep the alcohol ban going. When the regulations were rewritten in 1998, that special rule was forgotten. It's understood that this was a total oversight and wasn't supposed to happen, but after a while operators started applying for alcohol licences.

In 2008 the regulations banned alcohol again, but this only applied to new facilities and was removed again in 2013.

These regulations have never applied to services on A-roads. Many Little Chef restaurants, for example, were licenced.