• Feb 26th 2007 at 11:05AM
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Quebec is probably the last place in North America where some businesses are still forbidden to open on weekends. Although the practice has long since dissipated in other retail sectors, car dealerships in Montreal still adhere to an archaic 35-year-old policy that dates back to when the Catholic church still had a strong hold on French Canadian society.

One dealership in this writer's home town is departing from that policy, and he's facing tough opposition. Pie IX Dodge Chrysler (pronounced pee nuf, on the street named after Pope Pius the 9th) is a dealership on the island's predominantly French east end, next to the Olympic stadium that once hosted the Montreal auto salon before it moved to the convention center downtown. They decided to open on weekends, selling cars on Saturday and Sunday, a move opposed by other area dealerships and their association (which also organizes the annual car show). Pie IX's sales have gone up, despite the protests outside. The demonstrators include salesmen from other dealerships (which remain closed on the weekend) and from nearby used car lots (which are open on the weekend). If new car dealerships were to open on weekends, the association says the salesmen will be overworked, while the used car lots will lose business. One protestor even went so far as to hit the manager at Pie IX Dodge Chrysler in the head with a block of ice and was arrested for assault. Demonstrators were also thought to have jammed the dealership's phone lines.

Despite the opposition, and with support from DaimlerChrysler, owner Claude Leclair says he plans to keep his dealership open on weekends, quoting sales figures of over a dozen cars each weekend, while competing dealerships are suspected to be operating in the red. Kinda gives new meaning to the old Quebec separatist slogan "Vive la Quebec Libre" – long live a free Quebec.

[Source: The Montreal Gazette via Jalopnik]

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