The moratorium on large shopping areas (such as department stores and hypermarkets) expired on January 1 and firms with an annual turn over of more than 40 million euros and a staff of more than 250 workers can now present requests for licences to open new establishments. Pere Sampol, the deputy leader and minister of finance, industry and commerce, explained the limits of the new establishments, which cannot cover an area of more than 1'300 square metres in Palma. For municipalities with fewer than 3'000 inhabitants, new establishments can be up to 250 square metres, rising to 400 square metres for 3'000 to 10'000 inhabitants; up to 600 square metres for 10'000 to 20'000 inhabitants and up to 800 square metres for more than 20'000 inhabitants. Establishments which are exempt from these restrictions, and which were also exempt from the moratorium, are car, furniture, boat and construction material showrooms. Sampol went on to explain that if the department store or hypermarket complied with the indications on staff levels and invoicing, it had to request a specific licence from the Balearic government. If it does not reach the limits, a municipal licence is sufficient. The minister expects requests for licences to start arriving over the next few months, although he explained that the first will probably be for the supermarket which the Mercadona chain plans to open in the first floor of the Olivar market in Palma. He added that this would be subject to conditions agreed with the stall holders, regarding the sale of fresh produce. Last year, the government authorised a dozen large shopping areas, chiefly supermarkets, corresponding to requests which had been made before the Law on Commerce came into force. Any new request must be accompanied by a survey on the commercial impact in the municipality or district where the new supermarket will be installed. This survey will be revised by government technicians and the government may reject the request if it notes a negative impact on small businesses in the area. On January 1 it also became obligatory to attend to customers in Catalan, if they so request, if the shop has more than three employees. The government will also provide financial aid to promote the use of Catalan in shops, both by enployees and shop signs.

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