Teenage disco goes ahead despite legal ruling
TEENAGE alcohol-free discos are to take place in a Co Antrim club this month despite a landmark prosecution of a hotel for holding similar events.
The management of The Elk in Toomebridge confirmed it had informed police about its decision to hold two "TeenElk" events - just four weeks after the Glenavon hotel in Cookstown was fined £6,000 for holding under-18s discos.
Dermot Dallat, nightclub manager with the Elk, said its team had "prided themselves" on running responsible, safe events for the past 20 years.
Following the Glenavon case, the Toome club moved the hugely successful monthly event - 1,200 teenagers attend at £6 ahead - to a marquee on its land where the capacity was just 600.
However, Mr Dallat said they were moving back to the nightclub for health and safety reasons.
He also confirmed he had been taking part in private meetings at Stormont with addiction experts, Assembly members and Department of Social Development officials in the hope of changing the existing under-age entertainment laws in Northern Ireland.
"We fully co-operate with the PSNI on these matters and we are hopeful that when a new bill comes before the Executive next month it will pass," he said.
"I have been managing this club for eight years and it is purely about entertainment in a safe, controlled environment. We will be subject to a visit from the PSNI at our two events in December to ensure safety of children and that no alcohol is on sale. It is a completely sanitised environment."
Current laws only permit children (under-18’s) to be allowed in licensed premises up until 9pm. They must be accompanied by an adult, must be dining and are not allowed to order alcohol from the bar
Last month, an addiction expert raised concerns about the "social implications" of the landmark fine.
Dr George O’Neill, a GP who chairs Addiction NI, a charity that provides support to hundreds of people affected by alcohol and drug abuse, warned the test-case against the Glenavon hotel in Cookstown could have serious repercussions for young people seeking alternative forms of entertainment.
And he urged the north's politicians to urgently change existing laws that are "out of touch" with the rest of Ireland and UK.