Bid for bar at town hall where Ian Paisley lambasted ‘Devil’s buttermilk’
The Ballymena venue where the late Reverend Ian Paisley described booze as the "devil's buttermilk" is seeking a full-time drinks licence.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council last week voted in favour of making an application for a full-time liquor licence for the Braid town hall, once the scene of many meetings held by the former firebrand leader of the DUP.
However, the move sparked some opposition, including a councillor who claimed it would turn the town hall into a "glorified drinking den".
The centre has had a recurring occasional drinks licence since 2009 and at last week's full council meeting a proposal was made to make the arrangement a permanent fixture as it is seeking to establish itself as a conference venue.
Alliance Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna proposed the motion, which was seconded by Independent Councillor James Henry.
But, the Ballymena Guardian reported that while 22 representatives voted in favour, 11 voted against and there was one abstention.
A recent council report showed that between 2015-16 there were 44 events at the Braid that had bar facilities and in 2016-2017 to date there have been 46 similar events.
Financial projections estimate that the centre can pull in around £22,000 per year for the annual layout of £1,175 for a drinks licence. The DUP's Sam Hanna told the Belfast Telegraph that he opposed the move on business grounds.
"All I've got to say on it is that I don't think it is manageable. It is a big centre and that might look like a lot of money on paper, but if you have to pay a bar manager it won't be as much." he said.
"Besides, I am against alcohol being on the premises. People can have a drink before they come in."
Another objector to the plan was Independent Councillor Jim Brown, who said he recalled being brought to the town hall as a boy to hear Rev Paisley denounce the 'demon drink'.
He added he would be "deeply disappointed if the party that Dr Paisley founded was to open the floodgates and pour the buttermilk onto the streets of Ballymena".
Mr Brown said: "This town is well served with establishments that provide licences for alcoholic beverages. This council is not in the business of competing for business.
"I believe that as a responsible local authority we need to be saying to our people that there are things that may not appear to be all that bad, but at the end of the day there is great danger.
"This council could find a lot more important business to deal with and more lucrative ventures in which to raise capital than to turn the Braid into a glorified drinking den."
DUP Mayor Paul Reid voted for the proposal and said it was for "every member to vote according to their conscience."
SDLP Councillor Declan O'Loan also voted in favour of a permanent licence.
But TUV Councillor Brian Collins said: "Those licences were not in my name."