Why are shops closed on public holidays

Shop opening times in North Rhine-Westphalia


This leaflet explains the law governing shop opening times in North Rhine-Westphalia (LÖG-NRW). A nationwide regulation no longer exists since the repeal of the Store Closing Act in November 2006. As of March 30, 2018, various changes came into force due to the law to remove unnecessary and burdensome regulations in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Entfesselungspaket I).

The Store Opening Act applies to the opening of sales outlets and the commercial offering of goods outside of sales outlets.


Sales outlets are shops of all kinds, pharmacies and petrol stations, as well as other sales stands, provided that they are constantly offering goods for sale to anyone commercially from a fixed location. The showing of samples, samples and the like is equated with the commercial offer if goods orders are accepted in the facility.

No sales outlets in this sense are:

  • Service companies, such as travel agencies or repair shops, since no goods are offered. However, the restrictions of the Sunday and Public Holidays Act also apply there (see Section 9).
  • Restaurants and restaurants where goods are not offered for take-away but for consumption on the spot.
  • Pure wholesalers, as there is no sale to anyone. Access must be appropriately controlled.
  • Closed events as there is no sale to anyone. A closed event is given if only a precisely defined group of people is admitted, for example company employees to the company canteen. On the other hand, there is no closed event and thus the applicability of the Store Opening Act if only holders of admission tickets have access, but an admission ticket can be purchased by anyone.

Shop opening times

Sales outlets may be open on working days without any time limit. The previous Saturday regulation no longer applies since March 30, 2018, so that the general shop opening hours now also apply to Saturdays.

On December 24th, sales outlets can be open until 2 p.m. If December 24th falls on a Sunday, sales points for the delivery of Christmas trees can be opened from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Outside the permitted opening times for sales outlets, the commercial offering of goods for sale to anyone outside of sales outlets is generally prohibited.

Sale on Sundays and Holidays

In principle, the following shops may be open on Sundays and public holidays:

  • Sales outlets whose core range consists of one or more of the product groups flowers and plants, newspapers and magazines or baked goods and confectionery, for the supply of these goods and a limited range of marginal products. These sales outlets may be open for a period of five hours.
    This regulation does not apply to Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Christmas Day. The handing over of goods is prohibited on these days.
  • Points of sale of themed goods or goods for immediate consumption on the premises or in the building of a cultural or sports event or in a museum, provided that they serve to supply visitors. Opening is only permitted during the event and opening times.
  • Selling points of agricultural businesses whose core range consists of self-produced agricultural products for the sale of these goods and a limited range of marginal products. These sales outlets are also only allowed to be open for a period of five hours.

On December 24th, the above sales points may remain open until 2 p.m. if December 24th falls on a Sunday.

In addition, perishable goods and goods for immediate consumption may be offered outside of sales outlets on Sundays and public holidays (for example ice cream vans).

If a point of sale is open on Sundays and public holidays, the owner must clearly indicate the opening times at the point of sale. Customers who are present when the store closes may still be served.

Further sales Sundays and Holidays

After hearing various institutions (including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry), the responsible local regulatory authorities can also allow sales in the public interest for each point of sale from 1 p.m. for up to five hours on a maximum of eight Sundays and public holidays per year. It is not conclusively regulated when there is a public interest, but the legislature does provide examples. A public interest exists in particular when the opening

  • takes place in connection with local festivals, markets, trade fairs or similar events (whereby the existence of a connection is presumed if the store opening takes place in close proximity to the local event and on the same day and in the event of advertising by the organizer the respective event for the opening of the sales outlets in Is in the foreground),
  • serves to maintain, strengthen or develop a diverse stationary retail offering,
  • serves to maintain, strengthen or develop central supply areas,
  • serves to revitalize inner cities, town centers, city centers or district centers or
  • the supra-local visibility of the respective municipality as an attractive and liveable location, especially for tourism and leisure activities, as a residential and commercial location as well as a location for cultural and sporting facilities.

The release can be limited to certain districts, districts and branches of trade. A total of no more than 16 Sundays and public holidays per calendar year may be released within a municipality (it should be noted that each individual sales point may only be open on a maximum of eight open Sundays and public holidays). Only one Advent Sunday may be released for the entire municipality. If the release is restricted to certain districts, districts or branches of trade, only one Advent Sunday may be released per district, district and branch of trade, but no more than two Advent Sundays may be released per municipality in total. This means that a maximum of one Sunday in Advent can be released per point of sale.

Two Sundays in Advent, the first and second Christmas holidays, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and the silent holidays within the meaning of the Public Holidays Act of North Rhine-Westphalia (Good Friday, All Saints' Day, Dead Sunday and National Mourning Day) as well as May 1st and October 3rd are excluded from the release. December 24th is excluded from the release if this day falls on a Sunday. No sales are allowed on these days.

This new legal situation applies to ordinances of the local regulatory authorities that were adopted from March 30, 2018. The old legal situation continues to apply to the ordinances passed before this point in time.

Application help

The Ministry of Economics, Innovation, Digitization and Energy NRW has published an application guide for municipalities and retailers for the determination of open Sundays and public holidays as well as an appendix for this. You can find this and other information on the website of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in North Rhine-Westphalia [Link to https://www.wirtschaft.nrw/loeg-nrw-anwendungshilfe].

In selected spa, excursion, recreation and pilgrimage locations, goods that are characteristic of the location, fresh fruit, tobacco products, flowers and newspapers may be sold on a maximum of 40 Sundays and public holidays a year for up to eight hours become. The individual locations that are generally allowed to make use of this are listed in the appendix to the Shop Opening Ordinance. Here too, however, the relevant regulatory authorities must approve Sundays and public holidays by means of an ordinance. If you operate a sales point in such a place, you should therefore find out from your local regulatory authority which 40 Sundays and public holidays per year are approved for the sale of the above-mentioned goods.

Regulations at pharmacies, petrol stations, airports and passenger train stations

Pharmacies are allowed to have their points of sale open on Sundays and public holidays for the dispensing of medicines, nursing products, baby care products and baby food, hygienic articles and disinfectants. The Chamber of Pharmacists regulates that some of the pharmacies must alternately remain closed.

Petrol stations are generally open all day, including on Sundays and public holidays, and on December 24th, if this day falls on a working day. On Sundays and public holidays, it is only possible to hand in spare parts to maintain / restore vehicle readiness and to hand in operating materials and travel supplies. Travel supplies include newspapers, magazines, street maps, city maps, travel books, writing materials, tobacco products, cut flowers, travel toilet articles, films, sound carriers, supplies for first-aid kits, souvenirs and toys of low value, small quantities of food and luxury items as well as foreign currency.

Sales outlets at airports and passenger train stations for rail transport are allowed to be open all day for the sale of travel supplies, but on December 24th only until 5 p.m.

Sales in the catering industry

In the case of restaurants, the handing over of accessories to guests is also permitted during shop closing times. Accessory goods are services that are limited in terms of quantity in connection with guest accommodation, for example tobacco products, matches, pastries, newspapers, postcards or the like. Furthermore, outside of the curfew, the innkeeper may hand over drinks and prepared meals from his business, bottled beer, non-alcoholic drinks as well as tobacco and confectionery for immediate consumption to anyone across the street (Section 7 Restaurant Act).

Store opening on open days

For the entrepreneur, the question often arises whether he can invite customers to the store on Sundays and public holidays, for example to hold an open house.

Keeping a point of sale open is permitted on Sundays and public holidays when there is no business dealings. In this respect, only viewing the goods, such as through a shop window, may be made possible. The display of brochures and other general advertising material is also permitted. Open days must move within this framework.

Any kind of business initiation is prohibited on Sundays and public holidays, be it through advice, showing samples or displaying order slips and the establishment of a corresponding opportunity to insert these slips. In principle, the entrepreneur may not initiate or establish personal, bilateral contact with the customer.

Against this background, according to the case law on the earlier Federal Shop Closing Act, the owner and his / her employed staff were not allowed to be present at the open house. This is still the case.

In principle, however, the presence of security personnel is permitted. Personnel who are only intended to supervise and are not authorized to accept orders, conduct sales talks, present and explain the offer or carry out other sales-promoting activities may be in the

Special case: mixed companies, for example kiosks

It is possible that several goods or services are offered in the same point of sale, the sale of which is subject to different shop opening times. One then speaks of a mixed operation. In the case of mixed companies, it must be checked separately for each product or service at what times it may be handed over to the customer.

An example of mixed operations are kiosks. As far as take-away goods are sold, they are subject to shop opening hours. Insofar as a bar is operated that gives the guest the opportunity to have drinks on the spot, the police hour for drinking halls, i.e. restaurant law, applies. From the time the shop closes, kiosk operators with a part of the license-free restaurant are only allowed to sell the goods that belong to the restaurant. This also includes the "accessory services" mentioned above.

The Sunday and Public Holiday Law

Time restrictions for business activities result not only from the Shop Opening Act, but also from the law on Sundays and public holidays in North Rhine-Westphalia (Public Holidays Act NW).

The public holiday law applies in North Rhine-Westphalia to all work, i.e. both for the sale of goods and services.

The Public Holiday Act prohibits all publicly noticeable work on Sundays and public holidays that is likely to disturb the external calm of the day. The public holidays are New Year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1st, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Corpus Christi, October 3rd, All Saints Day and Christmas Day.

Events that are primarily of a recreational nature, such as the operation of fitness studios, tanning studios, saunas or cinemas, are exempt from the prohibitions of the Public Holidays Act.

Working hours on Sundays and public holidays

Section 11 of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG) applies on Sundays and public holidays on which sales outlets are allowed to be open. It means that

  • must be free of work at least 15 Sundays a year,
  • eight hours of working time may not be exceeded in principle, but under certain conditions the working time can be extended to up to ten hours (breaks and rest periods must also be observed on Sundays and public holidays),
  • in the case of Sunday work, a substitute rest day must be granted within two weeks; for work on public holidays within eight weeks,
  • Sunday and public holiday rest or the substitute rest day is generally to be granted directly in connection with the eleven-hour rest period in accordance with Section 5 ArbZG, so that the employee has a 35-hour rest period once a week.

In addition, employees may be employed with essential preparatory and final work for a further 30 minutes, taking into account the compensation times.

Fine regulations

Violations of the NRW store opening law can be punished with up to 5,000 euros. If the violation of the Store Opening Act is also a violation of the Working Hours Act, fines of up to 15,000 euros are possible.