Motorists taken for a ride by Belfast nightclub's fake parking ticket prank
A Belfast nightclub had to slam on the brakes after a parking PR stunt went wrong.
Laganside club El Divino had been slapping realistic-looking fake parking tickets on vehicles in the city centre.
It was only when furious motorists got into their cars and saw the backs of the tickets - which read "Only sleggin'!" - that they realised they were actually leaflets for a student night at the venue.
The Department for Regional Development, which is responsible for parking restrictions, was inundated with complaints from angry car owners enraged by the misleading promotion.
MLA Adrian Cochrane Watson, who sits on Stormont's powerful Regional Development Committee, described the nightclub's PR stunt as "pathetic".
"I'm horrified," he said. "This is a pathetic attempt at self-promotion.
"I myself have fallen foul of parking restrictions, and I can tell you that thinking you have received a fine is no joking matter.
"Finding a notice like this on your car could be very alarming. People could easily over-react and vent their wrath on the nearest traffic warden.
"I wouldn't like to think that any traffic warden had to deal with angry people who had been tricked by this stunt."
In a statement, El Divino said: "The use of the flyers was intended as a light-hearted promotion. It was well-received by many patrons, however we apologise to any local residents that were inconvenienced or concerned by the use of the flyers."
But the Department for Regional Development was in no mood to laugh the matter off as a light-hearted prank.
A spokesman said: "The department is viewing this matter very seriously. We became aware of the issue when we received a number of inquiries from drivers questioning the validity of the flyer.
"The department immediately contacted those responsible for the campaign, pointing to a number of issues, including the distress and anxiety it has caused amongst residents and other legitimate parkers in the area.
"The Department has been given a full assurance that the practice has ceased - and there will be no recurrence."
Belfast City Council is also investigating the incident.
A spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the incident and are taking appropriate action."