Montreal Record Stores Fined Thousands over Opening Hours

The province alleges the shops don't have the right to be open past 5 p.m. on weekends
Montreal Record Stores Fined Thousands over Opening Hours
Photo: Phonopolis
Multiple record stores in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood have been fined thousands of dollars by the province of Quebec for staying open past 5 p.m. on weekends.

In a lengthy statement, Phonopolis co-owner Jordan Robson Cramer (Magic Weapon, Miracle Fortress, Sunset Rubdown) explained how his store and fellow record dealers Sonorama, La Rama and Death of Vinyl are facing thousands in fines from the province. According to Cramer, they were informed of the law by an inspector from Quebec's Ministry of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, with the dispute escalating in recent months.

The law — which applies to all commercial establishments except grocery stores and pharmacies — states that businesses can remain open as early 8 a.m. to as late as 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. It also notes mandatory days off for statutory holidays, including New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Canada Day and more.

Cramer wrote that the regulations were "completely unbeknownst to us" since setting up shop in Mile End in 2011, noting it was the first warning and notice of its kind the shop had ever received.

"No example was given upon when the notice was presented to us and our inquiries in receiving an explanation since the visit have also remained unanswered," he wrote.

The inspector's visit to all four record stores took place on April 13, which happened to be Record Store Day 2019. It isn't uncommon for shops across the continent partaking in the event to extend their hours to treat vinyl heads to discounts and exclusive titles, on top of in-store performances and raffle events.

Cramer wrote that all four shops "changed our business hours listed online, and in our windows, to reflect the stipulation" following the warning, adding that Sonorama's owners were served the same infraction in November. He added that La Rama had received its infraction earlier this week (December 8), while Death of Vinyl is still awaiting one.

Mile End has long held a reputation of being an artistic neighbourhood and a landmark of Montreal's independent music scene.

Cramer wrote, "Our neighbourhood and store are destination points for many visiting tourists throughout the year — especially the summer. There are many more examples of times the government itself has advertised the Mile End as a tourist destination, for their own profit. These examples are a mere Google search away."

In 2016, Mile End was named the Music Creation Capital of Canada, on the basis of hosting more working, royalty-earning songwriters and composers per capita than any other region in the country.

Cramer noted that possible exemptions to the laws can be made for businesses that sell artwork and antiques, or those that are located within tourism hubs, though "after talking with a lawyer, we've learned that the court may not define our particular examples as falling under these categories, despite pretty clear evidence to the contrary."

"We're feeling dejected and harassed by whatever intent is propelling this initiative," Cramer stated. "The neighbourhood and small businesses like ours have felt massive repercussions from the gentrification and real estate greed that has befallen it in recent years. Many of our long-time Mile End customers have had to move from their apartments in the wake of new landlords who, in some cases, jacked up the price of rent beyond feasibility. While our current situation is frustrating, it is far from the most heinous campaigns being allowed to continue by our own government."

He continued: "Why this is happening now and happening to businesses like ours that are trying to provide platforms for independent creatives, at essentially zero-profit, seems suspicious to say the least. Any help, advice, or steering in the right direction would be appreciated beyond belief. We will not survive these pursuits if forced to pay the charges and adhere to the stipulated hours moving forward."

Cramer concluded that the stores are willing to contest the charges together, though they "have very little time before we will be forced to pay the fine and, eventually, close our doors for good."

You can read his entire statement here.