Belfast Telegraph

MTV Awards: Sunday trade laws could pull plug on Belfast party

'Belfast needs to get with the 21st century and stop being behind the times'

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Belfast's strict Sunday trading restrictions could put a dampener on aftershow parties for the MTV European Music Awards it has been warned.

The star-studded event due to take place on November 6 will attract pop icons like Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Katy Perry and Rihanna to Belfast. But unless the current regulations are relaxed glitzy after-show parties may have to close early.

Under current legislation some nightclubs have an entertainments licence permitting music to be played until 3am.

However alcohol cannot be sold after 12 midnight.

“The MTV Awards are happening on a Sunday,” Conor Maskey, chairman of the council’s development committee said. “A flood of people are going to step out of the doors of the Odyssey and have not much to do.

“Belfast needs to get with the 21st century and stop being behind the times.

“They could have Madonna lined up to do a DJ set in somewhere like the Stiff Kitten and not be able to go ahead with it because it has to close at midnight.”

Mr Maskey’s comments emerged after a row over the council’s response to a Department for Social Development consultation on extending Sunday trading laws during a full meeting at City Hall this week.

The DSD paper is asking for views on proposals to change the current Sunday opening hours with a view to boosting the local economy, benefiting the tourism industry and supporting the regeneration of town and city centres.

Mr Maskey, who is among the youngest members, told the chamber, said: “I am hearing anecdotally, especially from younger people that there is |not much to do on a Sunday. Tourists do not like the fact that there is not much to do.

“In a time of recession, opening up trading hours in this city is too big an issue to be left to individual parties. I understand that this is a tough issue for some but we should take the time to have a robust debate in good faith and show a bit of common sense. We need to talk these issues out.”

Mr Maskey said he believed Belfast should follow the Scottish model where there are no national restrictions on shop opening hours.

Background

Sunday trading laws in Northern Ireland have, since 1997, restricted large shops to opening for a maximum of five hours between 1pm and 6pm. Currently small shops have unrestricted opening on Sundays. Bookmaking offices are not entitled to open on Sunday and off licence premises are entitled to open between 10am and 10pm. Bars close at midnight, however some nightclubs have a late entertainments licence which permits them to play music, but not sell alcohol, until 3am.

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