Blue laws in the United States

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Blue laws in the United States vary by state. Blue laws are laws designed to enforce religious standards.

Many states still prohibit selling alcohol for on- and off-premises sales in one form or another on Sundays at some restricted time, under the rationale that people should be in church on Sunday morning, or at least not drinking.

Another feature of blue laws restricts the purchase of particular items on Sundays which is an unusual feature in modern American culture. Some of these laws still restrict the ability to buy cars, groceries, office supplies and housewares among other things. Though most of these laws have been relaxed or repealed in most states, they are still strictly enforced in some other states.

Some states still prohibit hunting in various degrees on Sundays.

Blue laws may also prohibit retail activity on days other than Sunday. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, for example, blue laws dating to the Puritans of the 17th century still prohibit most retail stores, including grocery stores, from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Arkansas[edit]

Arkansas prohibits alcohol sales on Sundays.

Colorado[edit]

Car Dealerships are not allowed to be open for sales on Sundays.[1]

Connecticut[edit]

Delaware[edit]

District of Columbia[edit]

Washington, D.C. allows private retailers (Class A) to sell distilled spirits, but the District Council requires Class A retailers to be closed on Sundays (Class B retailers, such as grocery stores, may sell beer and wine on Sundays). However, in December 2012 the Council voted to repeal the Sunday restriction, taking effect sometime in 2013.[2]

Georgia[edit]

Sunday retail alcohol sales in stores were prohibited by the Georgia General Assembly up until 2011. On April 28, 2011 Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation allowing local communities to vote on whether to allow alcohol sales on Sundays.[3] On November 8, 2011, voters in more than 100 Georgia cities and counties voted on a bill that would allow stores to sell alcohol on Sundays. It passed in Valdosta, Atlanta, Savannah and many other cities.[4] Before this, cities and counties of sufficiently large populations such as most of Metro Atlanta already had Sunday alcohol sales at bars and restaurants, with local ordinances to abide by, such as having a certain amount of food sales in order to be opened and serve alcohol. Exceptions were also made by the drink at festivals and large events.[5]

Illinois[edit]

Car sales are prohibited on Sundays.[6] Horse racing is prohibited on Sundays unless authorized by the local municipality.[7]

Indiana[edit]

Carry-out alcohol sales were completely prohibited on Sundays before the year 2010, when the State amended its laws to permit qualified breweries to sell local brews for carryout (generally growlers). Restaurants and taverns generally still serve it.[8] Additionally, alcohol sales are prohibited on Christmas Day. A recent change in legislation now allows Indiana residents to purchase alcohol on Election Day after all polls are closed.[9] Vehicle sales are also banned on Sundays.

Maine[edit]

Maine was the last New England State to take off the books laws that prohibited department stores from opening on Sundays. The laws against the department stores opening on Sundays were ended by referendum in 1990. Recent efforts to overturn the laws restricting automobile dealerships from opening on Sunday have died in committee in the Maine legislature.[10] Rep. Don Pilon of Saco has led the effort to get rid of the laws that prohibit automobile dealerships from opening for business on Sundays. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.[11]

Maine is also one of 3 states where it is illegal for almost all businesses to open on Thanksgiving, most notably the big department stores. [12]

Alcohol sales remain restricted between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. daily.

Massachusetts[edit]

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, alcohol sales have been allowed statewide from the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving until New Year's 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.[13] Retail alcohol sales remain barred on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Memorial Day. Hunting on Sunday is prohibited.

Massachusetts also has a "Day of Rest" statute that provides that all employees are entitled to one day off from work in seven calendar days.[14]

Retail employees working on Sundays must be paid time-and-a-half.[15]

Michigan[edit]

The sale of alcohol is banned from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Sunday. The only exception to this rule is New Year's Day, in which case alcohol sales are permitted until 4 a.m. Alcohol sale was likewise banned on Sundays until 12p.m., and on Dec. 25 from 12 a.m. until 12 p.m, until a repeal in late 2010.[16] Specific localities may petition[to whom?] for exceptions for either on-site or off-site consumption.[17]

Additionally, vehicle sales are banned on Sunday in counties having a population of 130,000 or more. Vehicle dealers who keep seventh-day Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday may operate on Sundays instead.[18]

Minnesota[edit]

The sale of alcohol in liquor stores is prohibited state-wide on Sundays.[19] As of 2011, a bill has been proposed in the state legislature to end the prohibition on Sunday liquor sales.[20]

Car dealerships are not allowed to be open for sales on Sunday.[21]

Mississippi[edit]

The sale of alcohol is prohibited in most of Mississippi on Sundays. Also, the sale of liquor is not allowed at all in nearly half of the state's counties.[22]

Missouri[edit]

The sale of alcohol is prohibited from 1:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday.[23] Alcohol sales on Sunday are allowed from 9:00 a.m. to midnight subject to an additional liquor license fee.[24]

Missouri Statute, Section 578.120, RSMo, prohibits a dealer, distributor, or manufacturer from opening, operating, or assisting to keep open or operating any established place of business for the purpose of buying, selling, bartering, or exchanging any new or used motor vehicle on Sunday. This does not apply to:

  • Sales of manufactured housing;
  • Sales of RVs;
  • Washing, towing, wrecking, and or repairing operations;
  • Sales of petroleum products, tires, and repair parts or accessories; and
  • New vehicle shows or displays when five or more franchised dealers participate in a show or display conducted in a town or city with five or less dealers (a majority of the city or town dealers).

New Jersey[edit]

In 1677, the General Assembly of East New Jersey banned the "singing of vain songs or tunes" on Sabbath.[25]

One of the last remaining Sunday closing laws in the United States that covers selling electronics, clothing and furniture is found in Bergen County, New Jersey.[26][27][28] Bergen County, part of the New York metropolitan area, has one of the largest concentrations of enclosed retail shopping malls of any county in the nation; four major malls lie within the county. Paramus in Bergen County, where three of the four major malls are located, has even more restrictive blue laws than the county itself, banning all type of work on Sundays except in grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment venues. As recently as 2010, Governor Chris Christie had proposed the repeal of these Blue Laws in his State Budget,[29] but many Bergen County Officials vowed to maintain them.[30] Two days later, Governor Chris Christie predicted his plan for the repeal will be ditched.[31] Car dealerships are not allowed to be open or do business on Sundays anywhere in the state. In November 2012, Governor Chris Christie issued an executive order to temporarily suspend the blue law due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.[32] The blue law was suspended on November 11 but was back in effect on November 18.[33]

New Mexico[edit]

New Mexico does not allow alcohol sales Sunday mornings until noon.

New York[edit]

Alcohol sales for consumption off-premises are not permitted between 4 AM and 8 AM on Sundays, while on-premises sales are not permitted between 4 AM and 8 AM on any day. Prior to 2006, off-premises alcohol sales were forbidden until noon on Sundays, and liquor/wine stores were required to be closed the entire day. Because grocery stores are not permitted to carry wine or liquor, the older law essentially meant that only beer and alcoholic malt beverages could be purchased at all on Sundays.

Relatively few parts of New York actually permit alcohol sales at all times permissible under state law; most counties have more restrictive blue laws of their own.[34]

NY State liquor authorities ban new permits for establishments on the same street or avenue and within two hundred feet of a building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship. [35]

North Carolina[edit]

North Carolina does not allow alcohol sales between 2am and 7am Monday through Saturday or before noon on Sundays. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.

North Dakota[edit]

North Dakota may have the strictest remaining blue law of the United States. Many goods and items are restricted from being sold between midnight and noon on Sunday, rendering virtually all retailers closed in those hours, including malls and large retail chains such as Walmart. Prior to 1991 the law was stricter, when changes more clearly defined which businesses were exempt such as pharmacies, hospitals, and restaurants. The 1991 change also allowed businesses to open at noon on Sunday. Previously the laws were in effect all of Sunday until midnight. The changes were made after a 1991 blizzard, after which citizens were not able to purchase some needed goods and services due to the blue law.[36]

Oklahoma[edit]

It is illegal to sell packaged liquor (off-premises sales) on Sundays. Sales also are prohibited on New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.[37] Car dealerships are also closed on Sundays.[38]

Pennsylvania[edit]

Organized sports competition on Sundays was illegal in Pennsylvania until 1931, when challenged by the Philadelphia A's, the laws were changed permitting only baseball to be played on Sundays. In 1933, Bert Bell, understanding that prerequisites to a NFL franchise being granted to him were changes in the blue laws,[39] played the primary role of convincing then Governor Gifford Pinchot to issue a bill before the Pennsylvanian legislature to deprecate the Blue Laws.[39] The legislature passed the bill in April 1933, paving the way for Philadelphia Eagles to play on Sundays. The law also directed local communities to hold referenda to determine the status and extent of Blue Laws in their respective jurisdictions.[40][41] On November 7, 1933, the referendum on the Blue Laws passed in Philadelphia and it became law.[42][43]

Regarding alcohol, wines and spirits are to be sold only in the state owned Wine And Spirits shops, where all prices must remain the same throughout the state (county sales tax may cause the price to differ slightly). Beer may only be purchased from a restaurant, bar, licensed beer store, or distributor. Six and twelve packs, along with individual bottles such as 40 ounce or 24 ounce beers, may only be purchased at bars, restaurants, and licensed retailers. For larger quantities one must go to a beverage distributor which sells beer only by the case or keg. Beverage distributors (which also sell soft drinks) may sell beer and malt liquor, but not wine or hard liquor.

Hunting is prohibited on Sundays, with the exception of foxes, crows and coyotes.[44]

Car dealerships are also closed on Sunday.

Texas[edit]

Car dealerships (both new and used) must remain closed on either Saturday or Sunday; the dealer has the option to determine on which day to close.[45]

Alcoholic Beverages[edit]

In Texas, alcoholic beverage sales are distinguished (and thus blue laws vary) in two different ways:

  • The first way is by type of alcohol sold. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code defines "liquor" as any beverage containing more than four percent alcohol by weight, and liquor sales are more restrictive than "beer and wine" sales.
  • The second way is by where the alcohol will be consumed. Separate permits are required, and differing laws apply, based on whether the alcohol is sold for "on-premise consumption" (i.e., at a bar or restaurant) or "off-premise consumption" (i.e., in a retail establishment such as a grocery store or "package store").

Beer and wine sales[edit]

Beer and wine can be sold for "off-premise consumption" by any retailer that can supply and has the proper licenses. A beer and wine seller may sell other non-alcohol items, and is not required to be closed for business during periods when beer and wine cannot be sold.

Beer can be sold between 7 A.M. and midnight on any day except Sunday. On Sunday beer can be sold between midnight and 1 A.M. and again between noon and midnight. On-premise consumption permit holders may sell beer between 10 A.M. and noon but only with a food order. In certain large cities as defined within the Code, beer sales are automatically extended to 2 A.M. on any day of the week; in smaller cities and unincorporated portions of counties such sales can be allowed if authorized by the local governing body.[46]

Wine sales are subject to the same rules as beer sales, except sales are allowed until 2 A.M. on Sunday in all cases.[47]

Liquor sales[edit]

Liquor must be sold at specialized stores only (referred to as "package stores" in the statute) and the store must be physically separate from any other business (such as an adjoining convenience store).[48] A package store can sell other items, but the store must be closed at any time when it cannot sell liquor.[49]

Liquor cannot be sold at retail during any of the following times:[50]

  • Any time on Sunday,
  • Any time on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas Day (if any of those days falls on a Sunday, then sales are prohibited at any time on the following Monday), and
  • before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (local time) on any other day of the week.

Wholesalers can deliver liquor to retailers at any time except on Sunday or Christmas Day; however, local distributors can only deliver liquor to retailers between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. on any day except Sunday, Christmas Day, or any day where the retailer is prohibited from selling liquor.[51]

Utah[edit]

Main article: Alcohol laws of Utah

Virginia[edit]

There are forms of hunting on Sunday that are illegal, such as deer, turkey, dove and duck, and other forms that are legal. The forms of Sunday hunting that are legal are hunting on licensed hunting preserves, bear hunting, raccoon hunting and fox hunting.[52]

A recent grass roots effort is attempting to bring an end to the last of the blue laws in Virginia. The grass roots effort has centered around a Facebook group called "Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All" [53] During the most recent effort the Sunday hunting bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate only to be voted down by a 4 to 3 vote in Delegate R. Lee Ware's (Committee Chairman Republican Powhatan, Virginia) Natural Resources Subcommittee. During the debate on February 1, 2012 [54] in the Powhatan Today opinion section Delegate Ware expressed his concern over the dangers surrounding hunting activities in these quotes. “Bullets travel without regard to property lines—and so do shotgun pellets or slugs or even arrows from powerful-enough bows. And always, for an unsuspecting equestrian, there is the peril of encountering a hunter who misconstrues a horse—or a person—for a deer or any other game.” “Equestrians, hikers, bikers, picnickers, bird-watchers, fishermen, canoeists, kayakers: all of these wish, too, to enjoy Virginia’s great outdoors, often on Sunday—and they wish to do so without the threat inevitably posed by the presence of rifle- or shotgun-toting hunters.”

After the 2013 General Assembly in which Delegate Lee Ware's Natural Resources Committee suppressed many compromise Sunday hunting bills, Roanoke College performed an independent survey that shows there is more in favor of Sunday hunting than are opposed. The independent survey asked the following question resulting these responses.[55]

32. Current state law prohibits hunting on Sunday. Do you favor or oppose allowing hunters to hunt on Sundays?

Favor 48%
Oppose 39%
Unsure 7%
Don’t know/No answer 6%

2012 Quinnipiac Poll - Voters also back 48 - 40 percent lifting the current prohibition on Sunday hunting on private land. The issue shows substantial partisan split as Republicans back Sunday hunting 53 - 39 percent, as do independent voters 50 - 38 percent. Democrats disagree 48 - 37 percent. Men like the idea 53 - 34 percent, while women disagree 46 - 43 percent. [56]

2007 VDGIF Report A SUMMARY OF VIRGINIA HUNTERS’ OPINIONS ON SUNDAY HUNTING The 2006 survey results indicate that 53% of all responding hunters said they Strongly Supported Sunday Hunting in Virginia, compared to 28.5% who said they were Strongly Opposed. This question was measured on a seven point scale (1=Strongly Oppose, 4=Neither oppose nor support, 7=Strongly Support). When the categories were combined, 62% of responding hunters indicated some level of support for Sunday hunting compared to 34% who were opposed. [57]


The sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption is prohibited between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. daily.[58] State-run Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores have limited hours of operation on Sunday.[59]

2014 Virginia General Assembly - The matter of Sunday hunting has come up in the 2014 General Assembly as a private property rights issue. A Compromise bill has been submitted that would leave public property out of Sunday hunting. The compromises would also restrict any hunting within 200 yards of a place of worship and further restrict the use of deer hounds in hunting on Sunday. [60]

Washington[edit]

Historically, off-premise Sunday sales of spirits were banned, and all liquor stores were closed. On November 8, 1966, Washington state voters adopted Initiative 229, repealing the so-called “Blue Law,” which had been enacted in 1909. Consumers still had the option of purchasing beer or wine from grocery stores or on-premise spirits from bars and restaurants. In 2005, the state began allowing off-premise spirits sales in select stores on Sundays from 12pm to 5pm.

On the November 8, 2011 election, voters passed Initiative 1183, which brought several changes to the liquor distribution and retailing system. The most significant of these changes were the end to the state monopoly on liquor sales and distribution. On June 1, 2012, Washington completed its transition to private liquor sales. Under 1183, spirits may only be sold in premises of at least 10,000 sq ft, generally including grocery stores, warehouse clubs, department stores, and some larger specialty shops.

The sale of alcohol for both on and off-premises consumption is prohibited between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. daily.[61]

New rule‐making by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) based on alcohol sales hour restrictions is being proposed as the model for state licensed Marijuana sales per initiative I-502 as well.[62]

West Virginia[edit]

Hunting on Sunday is illegal in 41 of 55 counties.[63]

Alcohol sales are prohibited on Sunday in West Virginia until 1:00 pm Eastern Time.

Wisconsin[edit]

Car dealerships are not allowed to be open for sales on Sundays.[64]

References[edit]

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  28. ^ IN NEW JERSEY; PARAMUS BLUE LAWS CRIMP OFFICE LEASING, The New York Times, November 4, 1984. "Officials tried to regulate the effects of the tremendous growth on the borough by insisting that at least one day a week, Paramus be allowed to enjoy some of its former peace and quiet. In 1957, an ordinance was passed banning all worldly employment on Sundays, forcing all the new stores and malls built in the celery fields to close for the day."
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  39. ^ a b Westcott, 2001, p. 101.
  40. ^ Ruck; Patterson, and Weber, 2010, p. 95.
  41. ^ Algeo, 2006, pp. 13-15.
  42. ^ Algeo, 2006, p. 15.
  43. ^ Lyons, 2010, p. 51.
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