No, this isn’t about a famous quote, this is about something regarding law. Blue laws, to be exact. Blue laws have often been misinterpreted as laws still on the books but not enforced. This is partially true, but not exactly correct. According to wikipedia, blue laws are found in Canada and the United States to enforce a moral code. Particularily in observance of Sunday, restricting business on that day, or during certain hours. Most of these laws have been repealed, considered unconstitutional or simply unenforced.
The first usage of blue law may have been in 1781 by Reverend Samuel Peters in his book General History of Conneticut.
He used it to describe various laws first enacted by Puritan colonies in the 17th century, prohibiting certain business activities on specific days of the week (usually Sunday). Sometimes the sale of certain types of merchandise was prohibited, and in some cases all retail and business activity.
There is no evidence that blue laws were first written on blue paper. Instead, the word blue was a disparaging word that cited a strict moral code. Originally, Peters declared that the term was used by Puritans, but no evidence was found supporting that, and many may believe that Peters merely invented the term on his own. Another suggestion is that the books keeping the laws were bound in blue covers.
Here’s some examples of blue laws throughout North America. This is not a comprehensive or even complete list. Many of these were gleaned direct from wikipedia, some from Google searches. If you know of some, share them.
In the state of Arizona, alcohol sales are not permitted between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. However, stores may not start selling alcohol until 10 a.m. on Sundays.
The sale of any “intoxicating alcoholic liquor” on Sunday is prohibited by state law. However, restaurants or hotels that have appropriate alcohol licenses and are in jurisdictions that voted to allow Sunday sales are allowed to serve alcohol on Sunday for on-premises consumption. The same rule applies to large attendance facilities.
- The sale of alcohol was prohibited statewide in Colorado on Sundays until 1 July 2008.
- Car sales remain prohibited on Sundays.
Since the founding of the puritanical theological colony of New Haven in 1638, Connecticut had some of the harshest blue laws in the country. Until the 1970s, no stores were allowed to open on Sundays, save Jewish-owned businesses, which had to be closed on Saturdays. To this day, liquor sales and hunting on Sundays are illegal. Stores are not allowed to sell liquor after nine p.m. and bars and restaurants are forbidden to sell liquor after two a.m.
Alcohol sales are generally prohibited on Sundays, with some exceptions made at the discretion of local governments. Cities and counties of sufficiently large populations may authorize Sunday alcohol sales by the drink at festivals, large events, and “eating establishments,” which are defined as licensed establishments in which most revenue is generated through sales of prepared food.
Most Off-premises alcohol sales were not permitted on Sundays until 2004. Exceptions were made in 1990 for municipalities that fell within 10 miles of the New Hampshire or Vermont border. Since 1992 cities and towns statewide were able to sell on Sundays from the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving to New Years Day. In both exceptions sales were not allowed before noon. Since the law changed in 2004, off-premises sales are now allowed anywhere in the state, with local approval, after noon. Retail alcohol sales remain barred on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (or the Monday following Christmas or New Year’s Day should either fall on a Sunday).
- The sale of alcohol is banned from the time bars close on Saturday night (2am except on 12/31, in which case it’s 4am) until noon the following Sunday. Alcohol sale is likewise banned from 9pm on 12/24 until 7am on 12/26. Specific localities may petition for exceptions for either on-site or off-site consumption.
- Additionally, vehicle sales are banned on Sunday, with no exceptions.
- The sale of alcohol in liquor stores is prohibited state-wide on Sundays.
- Car dealerships are not allowed to be open for sales on Sundays.
New Jersey (Bergen County)
The borough of Paramus, New Jersey, one of the largest shopping meccas in the United States, has four major shopping malls that account for a significant proportion of the over $5 billion in annual retail sales generated in the borough, more than any other ZIP Code in the United States. The borough retains blue laws that are even more restrictive than those imposed in the rest of the county, forbidding all forms of “worldly employment” on Sunday. The borough’s ordinance cites the belief that “the physical, intellectual and moral good of the community requires a periodic day of rest from labor” among its reasons for the imposition of the restrictions.
However, repeated attempts to lift the law have failed as voters either see keeping the law on the books as a protest against the growing trend toward increasing hours and days of commercial activity in American society or enjoy the sharply reduced traffic on major roads and highways on Sunday that is normally seen the other days of the week. In fact, a large part of the reason for maintaining the laws has been a desire for relative peace and quiet one day of the week by many Bergen County residents.
This desire for relative peace is most apparent in Paramus, where some of the county’s largest shopping malls are located, along the intersecting highways of Route 4 and Route 17, which are jam-packed on many Saturdays. Paramus has enacted blue laws of its own that are even more restrictive than those enforced by Bergen County, banning all forms of “worldly employment” on Sundays, including white collar workers in office buildings. Local Blue laws in Paramus were first proposed in 1957, while the Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza were under construction. The legislation was motivated by fears that the two new malls would aggravate the already severe highway congestion caused by local retail businesses along the borough’s highways.
- All retail stores, excluding grocery stores and drug stores, must remain closed between the hours of 12am and noon on Sundays.
- Car dealerships can’t be open on Sundays.
- Until 1992, all retail stores were to remain closed all day on Sunday.
Oregon was the first place in the U.S. to outlaw alcohol, prior to statehood, in 1844. The law was repealed in 1849. It then implemented prohibition again in 1916, prior to national prohibition. Today, liquor sales are conducted by state-licensed liquor stores; alcohol may be sold for on- or off-premises consumption from 7am to 2:30 am daily.
- The sale of alcohol on Sundays was prohibited until 2003. Since then, alcohol may be purchased at bars and restaurants. Since 2005, hours of sales of malt and brewed beverages on Sundays depends on whether beer distributors have obtained a Sunday sales permit from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. For beer distributors without a Sunday sales permit, sales and delivery of malt or brewed beverages can occur from noon until 5:00 p.m. Premium Wine Collection Wine and Spirits stores are open on Sunday.
- To this day, hunting is prohibited on Sundays.
- Car dealerships are also prohibited from being open on Sundays.
Blue laws in South Carolina were first enacted in colonial times, with Sunday being the prescribed day for Christians and Saturday the prescribed day for Jews.
- As of today, South Carolina blue laws prohibit sporting events and most department stores from operating on Sundays before 1:30 PM, with a few exceptions for collegiate events.
- Alcohol in most counties is prohibited on Sunday.
From 1950 until 1983, the Southern 500 auto race in Darlington was held on Monday (Labor Day) because of blue laws; a 1983 NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman race at Darlington was 250 miles, not the traditional 200 miles, because it was run on the Sunday before the Southern 500, and state blue laws mandate a race distance of 250 miles for Sunday races. Also, the inaugural Rebel 300 resulted in a fine for track president Bob Colvin for holding it on a Sunday after the Saturday before was rained out; ironically, the Rebel 500 run 50 years later in 2007 was pushed from Saturday to Sunday and run at 1 PM, with the 250-mile exemption in place.
The 1978 Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston was held on a Sunday, but drew complaints from churches; that led to the race being moved to Saturday in 1979, where it stands. The state’s three marathons — in Greenville, Kiawah Island, and Myrtle Beach — are all held on Saturday. Myrtle Beach has a problem holding a marathon on Sunday because of numerous churches on the marathon courses. Greenville had been held on a Sunday in the first two years (2006-07) as it runs through the Furman University campus. However, complaints have led the third Spinx Run Fest marathon in 2008 being moved to Saturday.
- Liquor stores are closed statewide on Sundays.
- Car lots are closed on Sundays
Blue laws were repealed in Virginia in 1988. However, some businesses (including the state owned and operated “ABC “ liquor stores & the Ukrops grocery store chain); still observe them to some extent. Both stores are closed on Sundays (although ABC stores are slowly starting to open on Sunday in larger cities, based on population).
The sale of alcohol is prohibited statewide in West Virginia on Sundays. Beer and wine may be purchased after 1 pm.
Until 2006, in much of southern Ontario, it was illegal to hunt using a firearm on Sundays as part of the Lord’s Day Act. The issue of whether or not to allow Sunday gun hunting has now been left up to each municipality to decide, many of them now allowing Sunday gun hunting.
In Saskatchewan, it’s illegal to consume alcohol while watching erotic dancers. However, in much of the province, there have been many establishments which have attempted to open, but their time is short lived, as they usually close anywhere from six months to a year later.
It should be pointed out that while Peters is credited with inventing the term, J. Hammond Trumbull would later in 1876 prove these to be infact forgeries. A complete copy of this document can be found here.