Belfast Telegraph

Video: Belfast Build-a-bear 'carnage' forces closure - reports of assaults

Pay-your-age promotion sparks frenzy

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Build-a-Bear in Belfast was forced to close after "extreme" crowds descended on the store with reports of assaults.

The stuffed toy bear company is holding a nationwide 'pay-your-age' promotion which has seen hundreds descend on its stores. The price customers paid was determined by the child's age.

There were similar scenes at the Victoria Square outlet on Thursday.

However, it soon descended into chaos with the shop management taking the decision to pull down the shutters and police called.

There have been reports of "punch-ups", children getting fingers caught in doors and even a pregnant member of staff being assaulted.

"All hell broke loose," said one parent.

She said a dispute appeared to kick off after someone "bunked the queue".

"My sister-in-law had been there from 9.30am and got in at around noon. It was madness so we decided to get something to eat instead.

"We were walking out and I asked one of the police there what the craic was and he just said 'this is the riot I didn't think I would at today'.

"But it was just a PR disaster - everyone was so annoyed.

Police at the scene at Victoria Square. Pic: Elizabeth McGrogan
Police at the scene at Victoria Square. Pic: Elizabeth McGrogan
Build-A-Bear in Belfast's Victoria Square Shopping Complex had to close it's doors today. Pic: Justin Kernoghan

"I think everyone just thought it was the Twelfth and no one would be showing up."

Elizabeth McGrogan was left to console her disappointed daughter who was hopeful of getting a bear when they set off on Thursday morning.

"Absolute carnage over a fluffy bear," she said.

"The manager was crying at the front door in front of kids and parents .... awful."

A spokeswoman for Build-a-Bear said safety concerns forced the store's closure.

"The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority," she said.

"We are aware of the situation in Belfast and, in the interest of the safety of our employees and our guests, this store has been closed."

She continued: "The response to our Pay Your Age Day event at all of our UK locations has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history.

"The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations and, per local authorities, queues have been closed and we cannot accept additional guests at our UK stores due to extreme crowds and safety concerns."

Police said they attended at 12.40pm to "maintain order," however, no offences were detected.

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