IKEA Branch Closed, Shoppers Cleared Out

YERUSHALAYIM -
Until further notice, the branch of the furniture chain IKEA in Duisberg, Germany, is closed due to the pandemic. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The Swedish furniture chain IKEA got into trouble with the law on Sunday, drawing a fine from municipal inspectors in Rishon Letzion for opening in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, The Times of Israel reported.

The inspectors ordered customers to leave the store, as they were also in violation of the law. The shoppers said they were unaware that IKEA was operating illegally, according to Walla news.

The store was fined 5,000 shekels, with more to come if they see further violations. The inspectors warned that they would return every 90 minutes to check on compliance.

IKEA has been wrangling with the Health Ministry over its right to reopen, citing other large stores that have been given permission.

The company announced on Sunday morning its branches in Israel would reopen in a “limited format” adhering to health guidelines. But officials said they were non-compliant.

“The directives of the Health Ministry haven’t changed and no approval was given by the ministry to open. The matter will be transferred for police enforcement,” an unnamed ministry official told the Walla news site.

Most malls and shopping centers are still barred from opening, but IKEA has argued it is an essential business because it sells home maintenance products and is therefore allowed to reopen under current regulations.

The Health Ministry has rejected that argument, countering that IKEA’s primary business is selling furniture, not home maintenance.