Northern Ireland

Off-licences agree to Twelfth closures

Bottles of drink
Image caption Some of the off-licences have agreed to close for limited periods on the Twelfth

Police have ended a legal bid to have five off licences ordered shut during the Twelfth of July parade in Belfast.

The application was withdrawn after some of the retailers agreed to close for limited hours around next week's annual Orange Order demonstration.

Lawyers representing the PSNI had gone before Belfast Magistrates' Court seeking closure orders.

They did so over concerns that selling alcohol close to the parade route could heighten the risk of disorder.

The parade is part of the celebrations planned to mark the 327th anniversary of King William III's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Five shops in the south of the city were identified:

  • Wineflair at Tates Avenue
  • Tesco on the Dublin Road
  • Winemark at Bradbury Place
  • Russell's Food and Drink on Sandy Row
  • Russell's Food and Drink Botanic Avenue

But the businesses instructed counsel to defend the application, brought under the 1996 Northern Ireland Licensing Order.

They were set to argue that the legislation would require the closure of all premises selling alcohol within a defined area.

A further defence involved claims the onus was on police to demonstrate that the stores they wanted to close were linked to any disorder.

Resolution reached

But following out-of-court negotiations, counsel for the PSNI confirmed a resolution had been reached.

Withdrawing the application, she told a judge: "We have come to an agreement with the parties voluntarily.

"I'm happy to say that no further order is needed."

It is understood that the Tesco, Wineflair and Winemark branches have all agreed to close for limited periods on Wednesday.

However, Russell's Food and Drink is to remain open as normal throughout the day.

A barrister representing one of the off-licences told the court lessons should be learned for the future.

"This is not any way to look at a matter like this," he said.

"I would encourage everybody involved in this matter that the time to talk ought to be within this calendar year and not to leave it to the eleventh hour again.

"These are responsible businesses and responsible people."

PSNI Supt Robert Murdie said: "We have spoken with each of the owners and managers of off-licenses in the Bradbury Place area and they have voluntarily agreed to limit opening hours on 12 July.

"We welcome the support and social responsibility shown by these off-licenses and recognise their contribution to making the area safer for all those attending the Twelfth celebrations."