Daily What?! Blue Law: You Can’t Buy Electronics on Sunday in Bergen County, NJ

Blue Law-Bergen County-Prohibition-Home Appliances-SundayOn Sundays in Bergen County, NJ, a blue law prohibits you from buying electronics (seen at Mitsuwa)

Some of the nation’s few remaining “blue laws” are upheld in Bergen County, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from New York. Blue laws were traditionally inspired by religious beliefs and prohibited activities like buying alcohol during specific times of the week, like on Sundays. But some of Bergen County’s laws are neither backed by religion nor booze-related.

Since the 1950’s, it’s been forbidden to buy electronics, clothing, or furniture in Bergen County on Sundays. In Paramus, a town which contains three of the county’s four shopping malls, laws prohibit all businesses from running, excluding grocery stores, restaurants, and certain entertainment venues.

Proponents of the laws, which include many Paramus residents, argue that the laws keep car traffic low on Sundays and allow for retail workers to take the day off. And it seems like they have the government’s support: county officials adamantly opposed Governor Christie’s unrealized proposal to repeal the laws in 2010.

But opponents say that times have changed and that the laws are becoming exceedingly archaic and detrimental. For instance, with the increased incidence of devastating storms in the area, it may become necessary to open up stores throughout the week. (Disclaimer: the laws were suspended for a week during Hurricane Sandy last year.)

It seems that opinions on the laws have been drifting toward the latter position. A recent campaign to end the blue laws, called Modernize Bergen County, has gotten 1,200 signatures out of the 2,500 necessary for a referendum on the issue to be placed on a county-wide ballot.

Although Bergen County’s blue law may seem odd, let’s not forget that there exist arguably worse blue laws in other states. Car dealerships can’t be open in Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and other states on Sundays. In Pennsylvania, even hunting is prohibited on Sundays, except if you’re on the prowl for coyotes, foxes or crows! West Virginia and Virginia also have blue laws related to hunting. In terms of retail, North Dakota’s law is undoubtedly the strictest, prohibiting most sales in the state on Sundays.

Get in touch with the author @YiinYangYale.

 Mitsuwa, new jersey

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