As Riverhead braces for the annual Thanksgiving night-Black Friday rush on its "big box" retailers and factory outlets, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is calling for a law that would force retail stores to close on Thanksgiving Day, beginning next year.
“Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday that is uniquely distinguished as a family day,” Levy said in a press release issued on the eve of the holiday.
“Certain stores do not recognize some employees’ need to take time off from work, so this legislation is designed to help preserve an aspect of Thanksgiving that makes it such a special, bonding occasion.”
The county executive's proposed legislation would requiring retail stores larger than 7,500 square feet in size to shut down from noon till 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, beginning in 2011.
The county executive noted that when some of the larger ‘box’ establishments began opening for Thanksgiving, smaller retail establishments were forced to open as well to ensure that they would not be at a competitive disadvantage.
“This Catch-22 has increasingly put a strain on those smaller businesses whose owners would prefer to be at home, spending time with their families,” said Levy.
“Several years ago, it started as just one or two large retailers opening,” Levy explained. “Now, many others are feeling compelled to open as well, or risk losing out to competitors. This legislation would help even the playing field.”
Levy’s proposed local law is modeled after legislation that has been enacted in the State of Maine, according to the press release.
The county executive said he wants to promote the values that have become the basis for holidays such as Thanksgiving by recognizing the day as a time to be with friends and family, or as a time for reflection.
The law would not apply to stores that have no more than 7,500 square feet of interior customer selling space, excluding back room storage, office and processing space. Other exemptions would apply to food and entertainment venues, among other establishments.
Violators would be subject to a civil penalty of between $300 and $1,000 for a first violation, and between $500 and $1,500 for subsequent violations.