Battle to End Blue Laws Renewed in Bergen County

Blue laws limit the sale of things like clothing, building supplies, cutlery and furniture

A New Jersey group is hoping that voters are now ready to put an end to blue laws in Bergen County, the last county in New Jersey with the ordinances that close most stores on Sundays

Modernize Bergen County announced this week that it had garnered enough petition signatures to request a referendum vote in November on the laws that limit Sunday sales of nonessential items such a clothes, furniture and alcohol.

“Having these outdated blue laws today totally negates the principles of liberty in which this country was founded on,” the group said in a statement. “They do not accommodate working families’ schedules. They are unfair to small businesses that are fined or put in jail for violating blue laws.”

The group says it plans to hand over the 2,500-signature petition within the next two weeks.

County officials say blue laws in Bergen County have faced referendum challenges four times, most recently in 1980 and 1993, and each time the statutes have been upheld.

Currently, shoppers in Bergen County, the most populous in New Jersey, can’t buy items such as clothes, building supplies furniture, kitchenware, appliances and electronics on Sundays. Other items, such as food, pet supplies and jewelry, however, can be purchased in stores.

Store owners that sell the items on Sundays can be fined or jailed for breaking the law. 

The only notable exception to the enforcement of Bergen County's blue laws came in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order opening stores for one Sunday last November.

If the referendum passes, towns within the county could still set their own blue laws, officials say. A law in one town, Paramus, makes it illegal for most people to work on Sundays.

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