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 prohibit selling alcoholic beverages for on- and off-premises sales in one form or another on Sundays at some restricted time. Blue laws may also prohibit retail activity on days other than Sunday.

Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley write that throughout their existence, first-day Sabbatarian organizations have been supported by labor unions in lobbying "to prevent secular and commercial interests from hampering freedom of worship and from exploiting workers."[1] For example, the United States Congress was supported by the Lord's Day Alliance in securing "a day of rest for city postal clerks whose hours of labor, unlike those of city mail carriers, were largely unregulated."[2]

Arizona[edit]

Arizona previously limited alcohol sales hours on Sundays (2 a.m. to 10 a.m.; the other six days of the week alcohol could be purchased starting at 6 a.m.). This law was repealed in 2010.[3]

Arkansas[edit]

Arkansas has 75 counties, 39 of which are "dry", meaning the sale of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited entirely. (Some exceptions are made for private facilities). Private facilities must have licenses, which, in this state, can be rigorous. Sale of alcoholic beverages on Christmas Day is entirely prohibited, even in private facilities. Alcohol and liquor sales are entirely prohibited on Sunday and Christmas Day. (Some exceptions for private facilities are made for Sundays).[4]

Colorado[edit]

Vehicle sales are prohibited on Sundays in Colorado.[5]

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. The repeal took effect May 1, 2013.[6]

Florida[edit]

Several counties prohibit the sale of alcohol and sex toys on Sunday and during certain hours.[citation needed]

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.[7] Sales are still restricted on Sundays before 12:30 p.m. 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.[8] 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.[9]

Illinois[edit]

Car sales are prohibited on Sundays.[10]

Horse racing is prohibited on Sundays unless authorized by the local municipality.[11]

Sunday retail alcohol sales in stores are prohibited until after 11:00 a.m.

In city of Chicago, liquor sales may begin at 8:00 a.m. on Sundays only at "supermarkets", defined as stores with "not less than 10,000 square feet of floor space" that sell a "variety of food and household products", including fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry; the stores must have a minimum of 25% of their floor area in use for retail sales other than alcohol.[12]

Indiana[edit]

Carry-out alcohol sales were strictly prohibited on Sundays until 2010, when the State amended its laws to permit qualified breweries to sell local brews for carryout (generally growlers). Restaurants and taverns can generally still serve alcoholic beverages.[13] Alcohol sales are no longer prohibited on New Years Day unless it falls on a Sunday. The Sunday rule that prohibits alcohol sales at carry-out venues is still in effect.[14] In 2010, a change in legislation allowed Indiana residents to purchase alcohol on Election Day.[15] Christmas sales are still prohibited.

Vehicle sales are also banned on Sundays.[citation needed]

Iowa[edit]

Iowa Code 322.3 states that a licensed car dealership cannot either directly or through an agent, salesperson, or employee, engage in Iowa, or represent or advertise that the person is engaged or intends to engage in Iowa, in the business of buying or selling at retail new or used motor vehicles, other than mobile homes more than eight feet in width or more than thirty-two feet in length on Sunday.[16]

Maine[edit]

Maine was the last New England state to repeal 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.[17] 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.[18]

Maine is also one of three states where it is illegal for almost all businesses to open on Thanksgiving, most notably the big department stores.[19]

Alcohol sales remain restricted but allowed between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Sunday.[citation needed]

Massachusetts[edit]

Most off-premises alcohol sales were not permitted on Sundays until 2004. Exceptions were made in 1990 for municipalities that were 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.[20] Retail alcohol sales remain barred on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Memorial Day.[21]

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.[22]

Retail employees working on Sundays must be paid time-and-a-half.[23]

Michigan[edit]

The sale of alcohol is banned from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. every day. The only exception to this rule is New Year's Day, in which case alcohol sales are permitted until 4 a.m. Alcohol sales were likewise banned on Sunday until 12 p.m., and on Christmas from 12 a.m. until 12 p.m., until a repeal in late 2010.[24] Specific localities may petition[to whom?] for exceptions for either on-site or off-site consumption.[25]

Additionally, vehicle sales are banned on Sunday in counties having a population at least 130,000. Vehicle dealers who keep seventh-day Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday may operate on Sunday instead.[26]

All "blue laws" which had restricted Sunday hunting, in specific Lower Peninsula counties, were repealed in 2003.[27]

Minnesota[edit]

Prior to the law being repealed in 2017, the sale of alcohol in liquor stores wass prohibited statewide on Sundays.[28] As recently as the 2015 legislative session, proposals to allow Sunday liquor sales were defeated regularly. However in 2015, Sunday growler purchases were made legal.[29] On March 2, 2017, the state legislature passed a law allowing for Sunday Liquor Sales to begin on July 2, 2017. Governor Dayton signed the legislation as soon as it was passed.[30] Liquor stores are not required to be open on Sundays, but those who choose to do so are restricted to the hours of 11 AM and 6 PM.

Car dealerships are closed for sales and service on Sunday.[31]

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.[32]

Missouri[edit]

The sale of alcohol is prohibited from 1:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday through Monday.[33] Alcohol sales on Sunday are allowed from 9:00 a.m. to midnight subject to an additional liquor license fee.[34]

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;
  • Sales of motorcycles;
  • Sales of motortricycles, motorized bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, recreational off-highway vehicles, utility vehicles, personal watercraft, or other motorized vehicles customarily sold by powersports dealers;
  • 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.[35]

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.[36][37][38] 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, pharmacies, 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,[39] but many Bergen County officials vowed to maintain them.[40] Two days later, Christie predicted his plan for the repeal was unsuccessful.[41] Car dealerships are not allowed to be open or do business on Sundays anywhere in the state. In November 2012, Christie issued an executive order to temporarily suspend the blue law due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.[42] The blue law was suspended on November 11 but was back in effect on November 18.[43]

New Mexico[edit]

New Mexico does not allow alcohol sales on Sunday before noon.[citation needed]

New York[edit]

Alcohol sales for consumption off-premises are not permitted between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sundays, while on-premises sales are not permitted between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on any day.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[44]

The NYS Alcoholic Beverage Control Law prohibits the issuance of a full liquor license 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. Establishments within 200 feet of a church or school may obtain a beer and wine license. [45]

North Carolina[edit]

The alcohol aisle of a grocery store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on a Sunday morning. The aisle is roped off for compliance with the state's alcohol laws.

North Carolina does not allow alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and between 2 a.m. and noon on Sundays.[46] Gun hunting is prohibited on Sundays between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.[47]

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 some large retail chains; however, some businesses that open 24 hours, like grocery stores, are allowed to be open on Sunday. However, the big retail chain Walmart is closed. Prior to 1967, the law was stricter in that all businesses were closed from 12 a.m. Sunday to 12 a.m. Monday. In 1967, changes more clearly defined which businesses were exempt such as pharmacies, hospitals and restaurants. The changes were made after a 1966 blizzard, after which citizens were not able to purchase some needed goods and services due to the blue law.[48] The law changed once more in 1991 to allow businesses to open at noon on Sunday.

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.[49]

Car dealerships are also closed on Sundays.[50]

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 an NFL franchise being granted to him were changes in the blue laws,[51] played the primary role of convincing then Governor Gifford Pinchot to issue a bill before the Pennsylvanian legislature to deprecate the Blue Laws.[51] 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.[52][53] On November 7, 1933, the referendum on the Blue Laws passed in Philadelphia and it became law.[54][55]

Regarding alcohol, wines and spirits are to be sold only in the state owned Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores, where all prices must remain the same throughout the state (county sales tax may cause the price to differ slightly).[citation needed] As of April 2015, 157 of the 603 Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores are open from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. 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, or 12-packs, which were added to beer distributors' inventories by state law in 2015. Beverage distributors (which also sell soft drinks) may sell beer and malt liquor, but not wine or hard liquor.[citation needed]

In 2016, a bill was passed to relax the liquor laws. Updates include allowing grocery stores, convenience stores, hotels, and restaurants to sell take out wine, allowing mail order wine shipments, and allowing 24/7 alcohol sales at casinos. Special licenses are required for businesses to take advantage of these new opportunities. Also Sunday restrictions on the hours at the state owned "Fine wines and Good Spirits" stores were eliminated. [56]

Hunting is prohibited on Sundays, with the exception of foxes, crows and coyotes.[57]

Car dealerships are also closed on Sunday.[citation needed]

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.[58]

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-premises consumption" (i.e., at a bar or restaurant) or "off-premises consumption" (i.e., in a retail establishment such as a grocery store or "package store").

Beer and wine[edit]

Beer and wine can be sold for "off-premises 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 Monday–Saturday and on Sunday from midnight to 1 a.m. and again between noon and midnight. On-premises 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.[59]

Wine sales are subject to the same rules as beer sales, except sales are allowed until 2 a.m. on Sunday in all cases.[60]

Liquor[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).[61] A package store can sell other items, but the store must be closed at any time when it cannot sell liquor.[62]

Liquor cannot be sold at retail stores during any of the following times:[63]

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

Wholesalers can deliver liquor to retailers at any time except on Sunday or Christmas; however, local distributors can only deliver liquor to retailers between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. on any day except Sunday, Christmas or any day where the retailer is prohibited from selling liquor.[64]

Utah[edit]

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.[65]

A recent[when?] 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." [66] 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,[67] 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.[68]

The sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption is prohibited between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. daily.[69] State-run Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores have limited hours of operation on Sunday.[70]

Polls related to Sunday hunting[edit]

State law prohibits hunting on Sunday.

2012 Quinnipiac Poll[edit]

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.[71]

2007 VDGIF Report[edit]

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.[72]

2014 Virginia General Assembly[edit]

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.[73]

Washington[edit]

Historically, off-premises 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-premises spirits from bars and restaurants. In 2005, the state began allowing off-premises spirits sales in select stores on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

On the election of November 8, 2011, 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.[74]

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.[75]

West Virginia[edit]

Hunting on Sunday is illegal in 41 of 55 counties.[76]

Alcohol sales are prohibited on Sunday in West Virginia until 1:00 p.m.[citation needed]

Wisconsin[edit]

Car dealerships are closed for sales on Sundays.[77]

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