Hotel counts cost of two weddings and a getaway

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POLICE have been called in after more than 200 guests at a double wedding ate and drank their fill - then fled through a fire exit, leaving an unpaid bill of pounds 3,000.

Only minutes earlier, the guests had raised their glasses to toast the staff at the Beechlawn House Hotel in Belfast, who had provided them with food and drink for almost 12 hours. The guests had tucked into a three- course meal, including soup and roast chicken, and a free bar had kept them supplied with alcohol.

Throughout the day, extra food was ordered by many of the group, composed of "travelling people". "Little did we know they would live up to their name," a rueful worker said yesterday.

A barman said that a "well-dressed man" booked the banqueting hall and paid an pounds 800 deposit. "We expected about 80 guests to arrive but around 200 showed up. It was just frantic. The free bar was going until around 7pm," he said.

The two happy couples and their guests rose to their feet to toast the excellent service they had received. Then they all made a dash for the fire escape.

Staff looked on in disbelief at first, thinking the guests were indulging in some kind of joke. However, as they disappeared from the hotel grounds, they were left with the dull realisation that no one would be coming back to pay the bill.

An RUC spokeswoman confirmed that a complaint had been made and said that detectives were carrying out an investigation.