Hungarians face new ban on shopping most Sundays and nights
Mar. 08, 2015
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarians on Sunday took advantage of the last opportunity to shop on the final day of the week before new regulations kick in greatly limiting opening hours for most stores.
Starting March 15, stores can only open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and are banned from opening Sundays. Exceptions include pharmacies, small shops operated by their owners or family members, and stores located in hospitals, prisons, gas stations, airports, bus and train stations.
Newsstands, bakeries and flower shops will be allowed to open Sundays until noon.
Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the government was trying to adapt local regulations to standards in some other European countries.
"Hungarians are going to get used to it very quickly," Kovacs said.
He added that the rules were "realistic" since they also allowed stores to stay open on Sundays in some areas popular with tourists.
The government is favoring smaller Hungarian businesses over large international retail companies like Tesco, Auchan and Lidl.
Earlier, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the government's objective was to "prevent anyone from having to work on Sunday."
Unions and trade groups, however, said the shorter opening hours would lead to layoffs.
The Hungarian Council of Shopping Centers, the National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers and the Democratic Union of Independent Trade Unions said they opposed the new rules and were gathering signatures in support of a referendum on the issue.
Bea Szanto said the ban would make it harder for students like her to find part-time work on weekends.
"Today really is a 'Gloomy Sunday,'" Szanto said, referring to a famous Hungarian song from the 1930s.
Shops will be allowed to open four Sundays before Christmas and one Sunday a year of their own choosing.
Some malls and large stores said they would offset the Sunday closures by staying open longer on weekdays.