Bosses at the Glenavon House Hotel are calling on the PSNI to explain why a teenage disco went ahead at the Elk in the run up to Christmas.
Director Brian Morris said he doesn’t understand why his venue has been treated differently from the other nightclub, which is in the same district, over underage events.
The Glenavon’s Sense nightclub had been hosting teenage discos for over 20 years when police sent a file to the PPS as the law states children should not hosted on licensed premises.
But it appears the Elk is now flouting the law, openly posting on its TeenElk Facebook page that two events were planned for December 21 and tonight (December 30), and that they would be held in the nightclub.
Glenavon Directors Brian and Gerard Morris fought the case against them, but lost both it and their appeal.
They were ordered to pay fines of £3,000, but say the ruling has cost the business around £100,000 in lost revenue.
During the case, the prosecution conceded that the age 13-17 discos at Sense were well-run and had no alcohol on display or for sale.
To add insult to injury, after the ‘test case’ judgement, police have confirmed that the Elk in Toome has continued its underage events.
The Department for Social Development (DSD), which oversees licensing law, told the Mail the reason for the legislation is to safeguard children and that it is underpinned by criminal sanction for breach.
It is understood that both the PSNI and DSD knew the Elk intended to carry on with its first underage event before it was held on December 21.
Brian Morris said he has now written to police outlining his frustration.
The letter said: “Without revisiting the events of the last two years... we are at a loss to understand why we as a business organisation are being treated differently to another business within the jurisdiction, and why the law is not being fairly and equitably applied.
“I refer in particular to last night’s (December 21) teenage disco at the Elk in Toomebridge.
“Representatives of the hotel were present the entire night.
“We are led to believe that the only time they (police) exited the vehicle, was to carry out traffic duties at the end of the night.
“Our question is simply – why is there such as disparity between the way in which our business and similar businesses are treated?”
The PSNI would not be drawn on whether any action had been taken against the Elk in relation to the teenage disco, but a spokesperson told the Mail: “Police conducted a licensed premises check at premises on Hillhead Road, Toomebridge on Monday night, 21 December.
“A number of underage persons were found on the premises and enquiries are ongoing.”
Brian Morris has since said: “We look forward to prompt action in January from our MLAs in Stormont for a review of Northern Ireland’s Licensing legislation, which will not only bring it into line with the rest of Great Britain and Ireland but also enable licensed premises in Northern Ireland to offer safe, alcohol free functions for our young people.
“We believe that there is significant support amongst, not only young people and their parents, but also various experts who have been quoted in national newspapers.”
The Elk did not respond to our request for a comment, but the venue posted on its TeenElk Facebook page: “It’s been too long, but Ireland’s biggest and best Teen Event is back.
“And even better news, we’re back into The Nightclub where we belong. Monday 21 December and then the BIG one. Wednesday 30 December with special guest Basshunter. Merry Christmas TeenElk.”