A BLACKPOOL bar at the centre of an ID row involving three soldiers today said: “We can’t argue with the law.”
The servicemen and their families believe they were refused entry to Ma Kelly’s in Talbot Road because they were military men but management at the bar today refuted the claims.
They say the soldiers only had military ID which is not acceptable as a proof of age as it is available to 16-year-olds. The bar only accepts passports or a driving licence as proof of age.
The men, all aged 18, were spending the weekend with members of a national military support group set up on Facebook to provide advice for the families of servicemen.
The group had descended on Ma Kelly’s in the town centre on the advice of the owner of the hotel they were staying.
Janet Perry, 50, of Northern Ireland, was with the teenager when the incident occurred on Saturday night.
She said; “There were about 18 of us of varying ages and we had been advised by the owner of the hotel we were staying in to go to Ma Kelly’s.
“But when the taxi arrived I could see there was a problem and when I got to the door the bouncers said the three lads, couldn’t get in because they didn’t accept military ID, it would have to be a passport or driving licence.
“I was disgusted. I said these lads are heading out to Afghanistan and you won’t let them in despite the fact they are in a family group and have proof of age.”
Mrs Perry claimed the group were then told no military staff were allowed in the bar.
She added: “They said that was final and we weren’t getting in.
“Our group has members from all over the UK so we try to arrange social gatherings – but we will never come to Blackpool again.”
Nick Sugden, area manager for Ma Kelly’s, said the door staff were simply following the licensing rules.
He said: “If we allow anyone underage into the premises we could get a £20,000 fine or get shut down for 14 days.
“We can’t afford to do that.
“Three people with their parents came to the door, the lads looked very young so they were asked for ID like any other person. They had military ID but we can’t accept that. You can get a military pass at 16. “The staff told them we didn’t accept military ID, only a passport or driving licence, and they took it the wrong way.
“Any premises is the same, it’s the Government and councils’ rules. We can’t argue with the law. We are just doing our job. I’m very upset because we have raised thousands of pounds for Help for Heroes – 50 per cent of our trade every day comes from soldiers and veterans.
“I can’t believe we are getting slagged off for doing our job.”
Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch, said he would meet with Blackpool Council to seek more advice on the issue.
He added: “Ma Kelly’s staff were sticking to the guidelines set by Blackpool Council – at the moment military ID is not proof of age in the town.”
Billy Wright, executive officer of the Cours Association – an organisation set up by enlisted men for the benefit of enlisted men – said: “We think it’s shameful that Blackpool Council is ignoring this issue.
“They should be taking legal action and the Ministry of Defence should be looking after its soldiers.”
Blackpool Council said it was up to management at Ma Kelly’s to decide what ID it did or did not accept.