Grocer vows to battle $10K fine

Province punishes Food Fare for opening on Good Friday

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The owner of an independent chain of Winnipeg grocery stores says he’s hiring a “hot-shot” lawyer to take the province to court over a $10,000 fine for opening one of his locations on Good Friday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/05/2019 (1286 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The owner of an independent chain of Winnipeg grocery stores says he’s hiring a “hot-shot” lawyer to take the province to court over a $10,000 fine for opening one of his locations on Good Friday.

Provincial law prohibits most stores from opening on statutory holidays.

Munther Zeid, who owns five Food Fare stores, said he was handed notice of the fine Tuesday by a pair of city police officers.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Food Fare owner Munther Zeid vowed Tuesday to hire a lawyer to fight the $10,000 ticket he received from the city for opening his store on Good Friday.

Zeid said he has kept stores open on most statutory holidays, including Good Friday, and has operated in defiance of the law for more than 20 years without the province so much as calling in a warning. (The only days Food Fare locations are closed are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday.)

“It’s bull—-,” Zeid said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m going to get myself a nice hot-shot lawyer and fight it. Hey, maybe the province will… waive the fine. I’m going to continue to open.”

The grocer said the law governing statutory holidays is patently unfair: casinos, cannabis shops and beer stores all get a pass which allows them to be open.

“I’m fighting it. I’ll lose a-hundred-grand on this one just to prove a point, because it’s wrong,” Zeid said.

“How can you say to people, ‘No, we’re not going to allow you to buy food and have your family day, as you’re encouraging people to do. And then encourage them to have their family day at the casino.

“Or say, ‘Let’s have a family day and get high.’ Really?”

Zeid recounted a series of events suggesting the grocery chain was targeted this year.

Good Friday (April 19) began with a police cruiser pulling up at one of the Food Fare locations, and a provincial employee identifying himself to staff as working for Manitoba Labour Board.

The worker verbally warned Zeid’s brother he would risk a fine by opening the store that day.

The brother decided not to open the store. One by one, family members who run other Food Fare locations also decided to not to open.

Zeid was at the Portage Avenue and Mount Royal Road location, about to lock up, when a customer arrived, asking to duck in for a “litre of cream for his coffee.”

 ‘I’m going to get myself a nice, hot-shot lawyer and fight it. Hey, maybe the province will… waive the fine. I’m going to continue to open’– Munther Zeid

He allowed it.

Just before closing time at 5 p.m., “A labour board official walks in and said, ‘I demand your payroll records. You know you’re not supposed to be open,’” Zeid said.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I know, but if your boss can open up the casinos and allow weed to be sold and beer sold today, I can open, too.’”

Meanwhile, the province’s practice of forcing stores to be closed for statutory holidays puts Manitoba behind the rest of the country, according to the Retail Council of Canada. The council called for an update of the rules, according to media reports about the Food Fare fine.

Store closings on statutory holidays are decisions left up to municipalities in most other provinces, a council official said.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business told media it should be left up to business owners to decide whether they open on statutory holidays.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 8:06 AM CDT: Adds photo

Updated on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 12:08 PM CDT: Corrects name of store.

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