Holiday shopping debate heats up as grocery store says it was threatened with fine

The debate about shopping on stat holidays in Manitoba is heating up after a Winnipeg business owner says he was threatened with a fine for opening.

Food Fare owner Munther Zeid believes it’s not fair his grocery store has to close on some holidays, while other businesses can be open.

On Good Friday, he said a provincial official showed up at his Portage Avenue and Arlington store, and explained it could face a fine for opening, between $1,000 and $10,000.

Zeid says his manager decided to be cautious and close, and put up a sign in the window including a phone number if customers wanted to complain.

But at his Silver Heights location, the decision was made to open.

“We found out that the store down the street that sells marijuana was open, and I went, ‘if they can sell marijuana, why can’t we sell groceries? I said, open the doors’,” Zeid explained.

He said he served about 2,000 customers between noon and 5 p.m.

Around closing time, Zeid said a provincial official showed up at his store and requested documents which he said he is providing.

Zeid said he’ll be closed Easter Sunday because it’s a day he normally closes, but he’s not backing down.

He wants to open Canada Day, which falls under the same rules as Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and plans to petition every level of government for the right to open.

CTV News stopped in at META, the nearby cannabis store and staff say it was open Good Friday.

National Access Cannabis which owns META, declined to comment.

Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act

A government spokesperson told CTV News the Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act prohibits retail and businesses from opening to the public on defined holidays including Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and the act applies to all businesses except exceptions under the act.

Online, cannabis stores and groceries stores are not specifically listed, and unless a retail business is listed, it cannot be open. Some that are listed include restaurants pharmacies and laundromats,

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce said it’s a confusing law and points out people can get fast food and gas up 365 days a year.

“Just allow retailers to determine what there hours of operation are going to be,” said CEO Chuck Davidson.

“There are going to retailers that have no reason to be open on a holiday … and there are going to be retailers that think this is something that there is a rational and demand to be open.”

Manitobans don’t all agree groceries stores like Food Fare should be open on stat holidays.

“I think there are so many stores that are open now. Why not, really what’s the difference,” said one shopper Saturday.

“I do agree they should be closed. On some days,” said another shopper.