The owner of a supermarket chain in Winnipeg says he doesn’t understand why he was ordered to close his stores on Good Friday while a cannabis retailer remained open.

“It’s just weird that you can gamble on a holiday, you can buy weed now on a holiday, and you can drink on a holiday – but you can’t buy groceries on a holiday,” Munther Zeid told CTV Winnipeg.

Zeid owns Food Fare, a chain of supermarkets with several locations around Winnipeg. He says he received a call from one store Friday morning informing him that a provincial worker was threatening to fine the store $10,000 and close it down if it attempted to remain open.

‘A confusing law’

Manitoba legislation spells out six statutory holidays on which most retail businesses can not open to the public, including Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The province does make exceptions for businesses including restaurants, pharmacies, laundromats,gas stations and retailers “that ordinarily operate with four or less employees.”

Pharmacies being included is particularly confusing to Zeid, because large chain pharmacies carry many food products and face no restrictions on selling them on Good Friday.

Not included on the province’s list are cannabis stores with at least five employees. Zeid said he had sent most of his employees home and was about to shut down a fourth store for the day when he realized a nearby cannabis store seemed to be operating without any issues.

“That’s kind of ridiculous," he said.

At that point, Zeid decided to leave the fourth store open. Although another provincial worker came by and asked for documents, he was able to remain open until his planned closing at 5 p.m. He said he saw thousands of customers come through his doors that afternoon.

The owners of the cannabis store declined to comment on this story.

Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, told CTV Winnipeg that his organization wants the province to allow retailers to determine their own hours on statutory holidays.

“It’s a confusing law,” he said.

“You can go to a McDonald’s or you can go get gas … 365 days out of the year. It’s very unique that we’ve treated retail differently.”

Zeid says he plans to start a petition and talk to MLAs about changing the rules around which businesses can be open on Good Friday and other holidays.

“I’m going to fight this all the way,” he said.

“If the weed stores can open up, I’m going to be open.”

Rules across Canada

Different provinces set out different rules for retail businesses on Good Friday and other statutory holidays.

Manitoba is unique in creating one set of rules for New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day, and another set of rules for the other stat days.

New Brunswick, where Sunday shopping is a relatively new phenomenon, has similar restrictions to Manitoba over a wider set of holidays. So do Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Quebec, although Quebec’s holiday list does not include Good Friday.

Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and the three territories allow retailers to be open on holidays with no special restrictions – meaning Zeid would not face his Good Friday dilemma if he moved west or north.

Ontario leaves the decision up to municipalities, which has resulted in grocery stores being allowed to operate on statutory holidays in many parts of the province.