Northern Ireland news

Holylands off-licences agree to close for several hours on St Patrick's Day

Young people outside an off-licence in the Holylands area last year on St Patrick's Day. Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Hughes

FIVE off-licences in south Belfast's student area are to close for several hours on St Patrick's Day under a new agreement with police.

The outlets will be shut from around 4pm to 9pm amid efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour caused by binge drinking.

It's understood the agreement was reached after the PSNI went to court some weeks ago in a bid to seek powers to shut off-licences.

The PSNI last night refused to say which shops are part of the agreement.

When contacted, Winemark on the Ormeau Road said it is closing early at 4pm on St Patrick's Day.

WineFlair on Agincourt Avenue is opening from 9am to 4pm but then re-opering again from 9pm to 11pm.

When asked about court proceedings a PSNI spokeswoman said only that there was no court order to close off-licences.

"Police in Belfast have entered into a voluntary arrangement with a number of off-licences in the city to help keep people safe on St Patrick's Day.

"The PSNI message to all members of the public is to come and enjoy all that Belfast has to offer – but to do so safely.

"Any unruly behaviour affecting the enjoyment of the majority, caused by people who celebrate to excess, will not be tolerated."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, commended the off-licences involved – and called for supermarkets to follow their example.

"We know that this is only one element to the so-called 'street-party' problem and the majority of alcohol is most likely purchased in supermarkets at rock bottom prices in the days leading up to the event."

He added: "This problem goes far beyond the sale of alcohol and can only be addressed by a proper strategy to rebalance the mix of residents locally which has become unbalanced in favour of student accommodation."

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