One of Birmingham's best known canalside pubs is in danger of losing its licence after children taking part in a police surveillance operation were served alcohol.

Raids at the Tap and Spile in Gas Street also discovered drunken customers asleep on tables and overcrowding.

A police application to ban the sale of alcohol at the pub for three months will be considered by the city council licensing committee on January 2.

The pub will only be able to serve soft drinks and food if the suspension is approved.

Evidence before the committee lists eight alleged offences between November 2005 and October this year.

It is claimed Bacardi and vodka-based drinks were served to girls under the age of 18 on six occasions.

The girls, aged 15 and 16, were assisting the police as part of an undercover operation.

During an inspection in August, police and trading standards officers discovered "excess drinking, drunken-ness, people asleep on the tables and people drunk being served by staff".

Bar staff had not been properly trained, the pub was overcrowded and there were mouse droppings in the kitchen.

Fire alarms did not work properly and there was only one door supervisor to guard four entrances.

Dating from 1821, the Tap and Spile is described on the pub's website as an old-style setting and "without doubt Birmingham's number one traditional pub".

The website adds: "As well as enjoying many of our traditional ales on offer we also serve pub grub with quality service and a warm welcome guaranteed.

"Just try will feel the difference."

The application for suspension of the licence is being supported by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board.

Patrick Downes, the board's licensing officer, said: "It is clear that the operation and management of the premises has fallen below the standard expected of a competent operator. The Safeguarding Children Board have concerns that the day to day management at the premises is inadequate."

Mr Downes said he believed that children would continue to be served alcohol if the premises licence remained in force.

The Broad Street Business Improvement District, which represents businesses in the area, is fighting to retain the Tap and Spile licence. BID manager Mike Olley pointed out that the pub has a new landlord, who was not in charge when the police raids took place.

He added: "We will be asking the licensing committee to agree a six month probationary period. This would allow the pub management time to prove their general fitness."

Solicitors Gosschalks ,for the owners, are urging the committee to retain the licence.

A spokesman said the company was confident of finding a landlord who would be "suitable and acceptable" to the police.