Holiday sparks confusion over weekend shopping hours

Many New Brunswick businesses are busy letting their customers know when they will be open on the Canada Day long weekend.

Canada Day is falling on a Sunday this year, so workers are supposed to have Monday to relax.

But that is leading to some confusion over whether stores will have different hours to make up for shopping time that will be lost because of the holiday Monday.

Janice McLaughlin, the owner of Fredericton’s Savour Decor, said her customers are routinely coming up to her and asking about her store's hours over the long weekend.

McLaughlin said she's cutting her long weekend short to serve her customers.

"Sunday for us is a day that we typically are open in the afternoon, but especially this Sunday is going to be a great day in the town of Fredericton,” McLaughlin said.

"As a store owner, you do always want to be open as much as you can."

McLaughlin's message is slowly getting out to shoppers.

Amelie Vienneau said she doesn’t know when stores in the capital city are going to be open.

“I actually don't really know for the most part if all stores are closed or if it's just some so, yes, I’m confused,” Vienneau said.

The confusion revolves around New Brunswick’s restrictive opening policies that are imposed on businesses.

The Days of Rest Act dictates which days businesses must close, including Christmas, Good Friday and Canada Day. Exceptions are made for restaurants, pharmacies and some small businesses that sell food products.

In the past, businesses have opened on holidays despite the provincial law ordering them to keep their doors closed.

Fredericton’s Urban Planet, a clothing store, has opened on Canada Day in the past. The store was fined $570 for opening on Good Friday in 2010.

Stores that open on Monday could receive a fine of as much as $1,000. However, the provincial government must receive a complaint from a member of the public before it can investigate.

Bruce McCormack, the general manager with Downtown Fredericton Inc., said the provincial government should not be telling private businesses when they can open or face the threat of fines.

The business group’s spokesperson said business owners should have the freedom to decide what days are appropriate for them to be open.

“They know best whether their customers will shop and support them on certain days. We'd like the government to back off and say, ‘Look, you guys make the decision,’” McCormack said.

The New Brunswick government has lightened its shopping restrictions in recent years. In 2002, Moncton became the first New Brunswick city to approve shopping on Sundays.

Other communities soon followed suit by applying to a board of civil servants for permission to open on Sundays.

Municipal councils can set rules on when businesses can open on Sundays.

But some businesses still opt to keep their doors closed on Sundays.

Paul Simmonds, the owner of Robert Simmonds Clothing in Fredericton, said his store will not be open on Sunday or Monday.

"We've elected to close on Monday and on Sunday we're closed by choice— being downtown and being a small business we like to give our team a rest,," Simmonds said.

"We've elected to email our customers and tell them about our store hours in advance."

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