Woodstock council to consider repealing Sunday shopping bylaw

by | Jan 17, 2024

Current bylaw restricts business hours for some town retailers, including supermarkets

Woodstock Council will seek input from the community as it considers repealing a bylaw which restricts the hours some businesses can open on Sundays.

The issue first came to the council’s attention in December when some businesses expressed concern about limited hours on Christmas Eve, which fell on a Sunday in 2023. 

Mayor Trina Jones raised the issue for discussion at the regular council meeting on Jan. 8 to explore if there’s “an appetite” among councillors to repeal the bylaw.

She explained that town clerk Laura Gaddas had studied how other New Brunswick municipalities dealt with Sunday shopping.

Gaddas said most villages, towns and cities allow retailers to operate under the provincial Days of Rest Act.

She explained Woodstock is an exception to the rule by restricting some stores, primarily supermarkets, to opening only from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Gadda prepared a motion stating Woodstock would repeal or amend the bylaw to follow the rules according to New Brunswick’s Days of Rest Act. Without the Woodstock Sunday Shopping bylaw, retailers could choose their Sunday shopping hours.

Coun. Jeff Bradbury cautioned council against a hasty decision without public input.

“Maybe we should slow down on this and hear from more people, such as the Woodstock Ministerial Association,” he said.

Coun. Norm Brown agreed, suggesting council seek input from the BIA Association, the Chamber of Commerce, small business and others.

Coun. Christa McCartney said business owners should control their hours of operations. While some businesses won’t want to open longer hours, some will, she said.

Gaddas added the basis for the Days of Rest Act and Woodstock’s Sunday Shopping bylaw is providing people a chance to worship.

“Not everyone worships on Sunday,” McCartney said.

She also noted Woodstock is one of the few municipalities with such a bylaw.

“We’re the exception, not the rule,” McCartney said.

Deputy Mayor Mark Rogers sees nothing wrong with being an exception to the rule, suggesting Woodstock’s bylaws should fit the community’s needs.

“I want discussion then we decide what we want to do,” he said.

Coun. Julie Calhoun-Williams supported public discussion but emphasized that Woodstock residents must understand the limited impact of Sunday shopping rules.

She noted the Days of Rest Act includes “tons of exceptions,”  including pharmacies, convenience stores and even liquor stores.

Calhoun-Williams said grocery stores are among the few retailers the Sunday Shopping bylaw restricts.

Mayor Jones agreed that most Woodstock businesses are already exempt from the rules but suggested council table the motion until the public can weigh in on the issue.

The mayor also pointed out all businesses are required under law to provide employees time off to worship.

The council agreed to table the motion while staff established methods to gather public input.

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