Sir Van Morrison hotel gig falls victim to Covid restrictions just hours before he was due on stage
A planned concert by Sir Van Morrison at a Belfast hotel tonight was called off just hours before it was due to go ahead because it did not comply with Covid regulations.
But the managing director of the Europa Hotel has blamed Stormont for the confusion, stating that he had believed the concert was within the rules following comments made by the communities minister.
Stormont ministers agreed today on an indicative date of June 21 for live music to resume across venues across Northern Ireland, subject to ratification.
But tickets for the Van Morrison gig, which had been advertised as the beginning of a four-night run, had already been sold and the announcement that the singer-songwriter would not be performing was made only hours before he was due to go on stage.
Howard Hastings, of Hastings Hotels, said he had asked Stormont’s Executive Office for guidance two months ago on whether the concerts could go ahead but said “for four weeks they neither confirmed or denied that we could proceed”.
Mr Hastings then referred to an answer that Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey had given to a question in the Assembly on June 1.
When she was 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.
“I have never been in the position where I have had to cancel a show at such late notice before.”
The Van Morrison gig was discussed by ministers at their Executive meeting today 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.