This term and the related charge, originating in France, has been used with this meaning in English since at least 1899.
Bars often offer student discounts because university or college students will have a different willingness to pay than an average consumer, due to their budget constraints.
Thus, the bar sets a lower price for entry for university and college students because students have elastic demand.
In some bars there are different cover charges for legal drinking-age customers and for minors who may not purchase or drink alcohol (e.g., a $5 cover charge for those over 21 and an $8 cover for minors).
Some bars have lower cover charges for some categories, such as college or university students with student identification; some have lower cover charges for members of the club or of nightclub organizations or associations.
In the US the cover charge later became an entry charge where both entertainment and food and drink are provided, and carries the expectation of entertainment.
In most countries where restaurant cover charges are made the practice is far from universal; many restaurants make no charge.
In North America, the cover charge for a performance by a local teenage band may be as low as a few dollars; a show by a nationally-known band with a recording contract may have a to cover.
Some expensive jazz clubs and comedy clubs have both a cover charge and a minimum drink requirement.
Tourist destinations may be more likely to make this charge, which unwary visitors may not anticipate.