Sunday, 10 October 2021
Shops in Ghent could soon be allowed to open every Sunday after a decision to bypass current laws requiring them to close for at least 24 hours a week.
While still in its infancy, the decision would see the city apply for recognition as a tourist center, following a 15-year campaign to do so. This change of designation – previously done by Knokke, among others – would overthrow the current law on opening hours for stores rooted in a time when Sunday rest was considered sacred.
Under the new rules, shops could be open 7/7, with a free choice of their schedule and opening days. This flexibility has already been seen to some degree, with shops choosing to close on less busy days midweek to stay open the whole weekend.
“In the retail sector, the pressure of e-commerce is enormous,” Jos Vermeiren of Unizo, a union for the SMEs and entrepreneurs told HLN. “Shopping there is possible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By recognising Ghent as a tourist centre, the traders are no longer bound to the 15 fixed Sundays on which they are now allowed to be open.”
“With the recognition as a tourist centre, every merchant can choose the best option for himself,” Vermeiren added.
So when does it happen?
While steps are being taken, the roll-out of the new rules could still be months in the making. Once the application has been submitted, it can take up to 6 months, HLN reports, meaning it will likely be next year before any changes are visible.