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MTV party-poopers: Belfast pub laws hit Europe's biggest music bash

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Belfast's pubs and clubs will not be able to cash in when the MTV European Music Awards roll into the Odyssey Arena on November 6.

Instead of hosting glitzy aftershow events for pop icons like Beyoncé, Rhianna and Katy Perry, entertainment venues in the Odyssey Pavilion will have shut up shop as the A-listers are whisked away to a private party at the Titanic Paint Hall.

Under current legislation, some nightclubs are permitted to play music until 3am. However, alcohol cannot be sold or even consumed on licensed premises after 1am.

And, despite pleas from the Pubs of Ulster and some city councillors, the strict laws are unlikely to be changed in time for the massive money-spinning gig. In an email to Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, who are paying more than £500,000 towards staging the awards, organisers said closing the bars was "not an option" and "would create enormous problems for MTV."

Hence, the Paint Hall has been mooted as an alternative for the aftershow event, which is planned to continue until 6am and will include a full, open bar. Private parties in unlicensed premises are not governed by the same strict laws.

Colin Neill from Pubs of Ulster said the current legislation meant Belfast was unable to capitalise on the massive opportunity.

"We are missing a trick," he said. "We do need to look again at these laws. We do not want 24-hour licensing laws but we believe in controlled licensing."

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland said he had met stakeholders to look at licensing law reviews but noted there was "not enough time" to change the law before November.

"An accelerated passage would not allow enough time for scrutiny," the DUP minister said.

Background

The MTV European Music Awards celebrate the most popular music videos and are voted for by the public.

They are in their 18th year. Lady Gaga cleaned up during the 2010 show in Madrid winning gongs for Best Pop, Best Female and Best Song. Katy Perry, Shakira and Rihanna played at the event.

The event is beamed live to millions of homes in up to 160 countries.

The UK has staged the event three times, in London, Liverpool and Edinburgh.

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