Hotel has to cancel Van Morrison gigs over Covid-19 regulations

Sir Van Morrison has been an outspoken opponent of coronavirus restrictions. Credit: PA

The Europa Hotel in Belfast says it has been forced to cancel gigs by Sir Van Morrison because they did not comply with Covid-19 regulations.

Stormont ministers agreed on Thursday on an indicative date of 21 June for live music to resume at venues across Northern Ireland, subject to ratification.

But tickets for the four-night run of Van Morrison concerts had already been sold.

The announcement that the singer-songwriter would not be performing was made only hours before he was due to go on stage.

The Europa’s managing director has blamed Stormont for the confusion.

Howard Hastings, of Hastings Hotels, says he believed the concert was within the rules following comments made by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

He further said he had asked Stormont's Executive Office for guidance two months ago on whether the concerts could go ahead, but that “for four weeks they neither confirmed or denied that we could proceed”.

Mr Hastings then referred to an answer that Ms Hargey had given to a question in the Assembly on 1 June.

When asked on that date if the concerts could proceed, Ms Hargey said: “Yes, as long as they keep within the regulations.”

Mr Hastings said: “We took that statement, made by the minister on the floor of the Assembly, who had been given the authority in this area, as a go-ahead and planned on that basis.”

He added: “So, stage set and tables laid, yesterday afternoon I received word from the Executive Office that these shows, despite the minister's assurances, did not comply with the regulations.

“Last night, I made a request to the Executive Office one last time to consider the status of these shows, especially given the assurances I had been given.

“This afternoon, they came back to say that they remain of the view that live music is unlawful at this time. ”

The Van Morrison gig was discussed by ministers at their Executive meeting on Wednesday and they confirmed it could not proceed.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: “Yes, we did discuss it and no, it can’t go ahead.”

The event proceeded in the hotel with a meal, before a video of Van Morrison’s 70th birthday gig at Cyprus Avenue in Belfast was played.

Mr Hastings concluded: “Van, I apologise to you and your band. We can only hope for better days ahead.”

The Department of Communities has been approached for comment.