Food & Drink

Whole Foods Faces Criminal Charges For Opening On Good Friday

04/22/2015 02:52pm ET | Updated April 23, 2015
A Whole Foods Market in Albuquerque, N.M. is shown Thursday June 6, 2013 during lunch time. Two employees at this Albuquerque store say they were suspended last month after complaining about being told they couldn't speak Spanish to each other while on the job. A spokesman for the the Austin, Texas-based company says it believes in "having a uniform form of communication" for a safe working environment. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

A Whole Foods location in Ottawa, Canada is facing four criminal charges for defying an Ontario law that prohibits the majority of stores from opening on nine specific holidays each year -- in this case, Good Friday.

The Whole Foods outpost signaled its intention to stay open on Good Friday in advance, CTV Ottawa reports. Staff justified the decision to do business on April 3 by arguing that the Lansdowne Park neighborhood of the Canadian capital, where the store is located, is a tourist area exempt from the strictures of the Retail Holidays Business Act.

The law, which was passed in 1990, does allow stores in certain designated tourist districts to remain open, but city officials argued that Lansdowne Park has not been recognized as an official tourist area. CBC News reports that when the Whole Foods remained open on April 3, police were called in to investigate and determined that the store's actions were in violation of the law.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson was "not pleased that Whole Foods decided to just snub their nose at the provincial law," he told the Ottawa Sun. Though the managers of the store had originally planned to open up on Easter Sunday as well, they eventually decided to back down and remain closed in light of the city's actions.

This week, CBC reported that the police are pressing charges on four counts against the Lansdowne Park Whole Foods. The store faces fines of up to $50,000 Canadian dollars (a little over $40,000 U.S.) or even its entire gross for the day. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 21.

For Whole Foods, the affair at least carries a silver lining: According to the CBC, the retailer's landlord now plans to try to get Lansdowne Park designated as an official tourist center. If that proposal succeeds, the location will be allowed to stay open on Good Friday, and Easter, in future years.

Whole Foods' corporate offices did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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