Northern Ireland

Belfast nightclubs' 2am closing time 'surprised clubbers'

Person drinking
Image caption The earlier closing time was a voluntary measure implemented by Belfast nightclubs

Late-night partygoers in Belfast were taken by surprise when nightclubs closed at 2am at the weekend, a club promoter has said.

The earlier closing was part of a voluntary arrangement among clubs.

It followed controversy over the death of Joby Murphy, 20, who drowned after drinking £1 vodka shots on a night out.

Music promoter Lyndon Stephens said: "The change has happened very quickly and it caused a lot of confusion in terms of people getting home."

Mr Stephens said there was a distinction between alcohol and entertainment licenses.

"While alcohol licenses always ran until 1am, entertainment licenses meant the event could continue until 3am, but that has now changed back to 2am," he said.

Police entered several clubs at about 02:00 BST on Sunday to ensure people left the premises on time.

Mr Stephens said the earlier closure would be bad news for tourism, with people from some mainland European countries accustomed to only going out at 1am.

Colin Neill of industry body Pubs of Ulster said their members had agreed to the 2am closing time as a voluntary measure.

"It follows the storm over irresponsible promotions and allegations of illegal trading," he said.

"It's really the industry putting our house in order and showing we can self-regulate.

"At the moment the legislation allows you to sell drink until 1am, but this is really saying that by 2am people are ready to go home because of that.

"We need to change the legislation before we have longer opening."

Mr Neill said Northern Ireland's licensing laws needed to be modernised.

"We don't want 24-hour licensing but we are looking at a model where some clubs can stay open a bit later," he said.

Nightclub owners met Environment Minister Alex Attwood last month to discuss what he described as "irresponsible" drinks promotions.

Mr Attwood wants to make it tougher for pubs and clubs to get and retain entertainments licenses.

It followed the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy who drowned in the River Lagan in January after a night of drinking £1 vodka shots. At the time, his father criticised cheap drink deals.

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