Fresh move to overturn compulsory closure of large stores on holidays

Photo: Lenka Žižková

A law passed last year forces large stores in the Czech Republic to shut their doors on seven state holidays every year, including at Christmas. However, the issue is now back in the news, with the opposition Civic Democrats pushing to have the legislation overturned and the governing ANO declaring a neutral stance.

Photo: Lenka Žižková
In 2016 a bill tabled by the Social Democrats barring retail outlets with floor space of 200 square metres or more from opening on some state holidays was voted through with the support of the Christian Democrats and the Communists.

Trade unions welcomed the move and say they would like to see the ban extended to a number of other state holidays. However, business leaders have been strongly opposed and a group of senators want to have the bill thrown out by the Constitutional Court.

The law pertains to New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, May 8, September 28, October 28, December 25 and December 26. On December 24 – when Czechs traditionally celebrate Christmas in the evening – large retailers have to pull down their shutters at noon.

Failure to comply results in fines of up to CZK 1 million; this can climb to five times that figure for repeated breaches.

Now the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats are pushing to have the law rescinded. They argue that practice has shown it to represent a restriction on citizens and excessive interference in the rights of retailers.

The Civic Democrats say that as the ban is not across-the-board it gives smaller retail outlets an unfair advantage over bigger counterparts. They argue that dropping the ban will prove a boost to retailers’ revenues and spell higher incomes for staff.

ANO were in a coalition government with the Social Democrats last year but voted against the bill with the right-wing parties in the lower house.

Now in government on their own, Andrej Babiš’s party are planning to adopt a neutral position on the matter when it comes before the Chamber of Deputies, cabinet spokesperson Barbora Peterová said on Friday.

At the same time, ANO have questioned aspects of the Civic Democrats’ proposed bill. The governing party say it is too soon to evaluate the change as the amendment came into effect less than 14 months ago.

In addition ANO say the proposal lacks any analysis of the impact of the ban on retailers or wholesalers or assessment of its application.

ANO have also pooh-poohed the Civic Democrats’ suggestion that their bill enter the statute books within a day, if it is passed. Such speed is not the norm and is only employed in urgent cases, ANO say.