Montreal record stores being harassed by the province

Four shops in Mile End are being fined thousands of dollars for very minor infractions.

Four record stores in Mile End have been fined $2,900 by the province for being open past 5 p.m. on weekends, according to a statement and set of documents posted on Facebook by Phonopolis’s Jordan Robson Cramer.

On April 13, Phonopolis, la Rama, Sonorama and Death of Vinyl were informed by Jacques Goudreau, an inspector from Quebec’s Ministère de l’Economie, de l’Innovation et des Exportations, that they were breaking a law that Cramer says he was previously unaware of (see the document here and here) — and Phonopolis has been in business on Bernard since 2011.

The law, which applies to all retailers expect food stores and pharmacies, imposes very specific opening hours: as early as 8 a.m. to as late as 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, along with mandatory days off for holidays and specific hours around the winter holidays.

The inspector visited the four shops on Record Store Day, a day when participating local stores typically change their hours to accommodate more customers and, in some cases, in-store music events. Along actually being open past 5 p.m. on a Saturday, the advertising of special hours is itself illegal, according to the province. It was the posting of special hours on the stores’ websites and/or social media accounts that tipped off the ministry and earned the stores steeper fines.

Inside Phonopolis

All but one of the shops (Death of Vinyl) have now received infraction notices (Sonorama has received two after pleading not guilty to the first), and, according to Cramer’s post last night, all attempts to contact the government to discuss the law, the fines and the infractions have led nowhere.

“We’re feeling dejected and harassed by whatever intent is propelling this initiative,” writes Cramer. “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.

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.

—Jordan Robson Cramer, Phonopolis

“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. All four stores are willing to contest this together and have connections within the press, but we have very little time before we will be forced to pay the fine and, eventually, close our doors for good.

“We hope that there are people in positions of power that may read this and rectify the situation,” Cramer concludes, “not only for our store, but for the future of independent retailers and citizens struggling on the island of Montreal.” ■