What are Blue Laws?
Blue Laws are laws that prohibit people from partaking in certain activities on Sundays such as shopping. These laws originated back in colonial New England preventing certain forms of entertainment from taking place on Sundays. While almost all places in the US have done away with such stringent laws today, one place that still keeps these “blue laws” even today is Bergen County, New Jersey.
What is the Impact of These Blue Laws on Local Businesses?
The biggest impact these laws will have on local businesses is that they are banned from operating on Sundays. This means businesses in Bergen County only operate 6 days per week instead of a standard 7 days per week as most stores in other counties across the country do these days. While undoubtedly costs stores money, it also helps them save on labor costs as they do not have to staff a store for a day each week. In the end, the balance evens out, but the people who are really hurt are the consumers.
The Consumers Perspective
A story ran about these Blue Laws back in February of 2015 in The New Yorker. Local residents like Mitch Horn vented their frustration in the story about having to drive almost 40 minutes from his home in Hackensack to the neighboring Hudson County to simply pick up supplies for his baby daughter. If the stores in Bergen County were open he would have to drive less than 5 minutes to the nearest “Babies ‘R Us” to get supplies, but since the Blue Laws prohibit that he has to drive 40 minutes away and cross the nightmare of a bridge into Hudson County just to get onesies, formula, and diapers for his child.
Many other residents share an equal frustration at the laws that stop them from doing something simple as shopping on a Sunday. Working families of Bergen County are overwhelmingly fed up with the Blue Laws to the point they started the “Modernize Bergen County” group on Facebook demanding lawmakers repeal these laws immediately. Mitch Horn and other local residents argue that these laws are violating their basic rights and freedom to consume goods whenever they choose by telling them they cannot buy things on Sundays in their home county. Moreover, this is not a problem in any other county in America, so why it has to be in Bergen County is beyond them as well.
The Argument Among Lawmakers
Many lawmakers in Bergen County have no desire to change the laws that have been in place in Bergen County for over a century, but others are beginning to move towards the idea that ending Blue Laws may be a good idea for consumers. Economists say that the Blue Laws cost the county a lot of revenue as it is one of the top 10 zip codes in the US for daily sales. Closing shopping centers for a whole day every week has a severe impact on the local economy and the income of citizens that work in retail that live there. They believe it’s unethical to stop people from making money to improve their lives on Sundays. Furthermore, it costs the county a lot of money in sales as people have to go elsewhere to shop on Sunday, however other lawmakers don’t seem to think it’s a problem.
It’s a debate that will continue long into the future as to if there should be Blue Laws in the future in Bergen County. They aren’t ending Blue Laws now, but with the locals pushing for the laws to end maybe eventually, it means an end is in sight. Only time will tell!