Group Lobbies for Repeal of County Blue Laws

“Modernize Bergen County,” a small group in New Jersey, is petitioning for voters to put an end to the blue laws in Bergen County, an ordinance that closes most stores on Sundays.

A blue law is a law designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday shopping for religious standards, particularly the observance of a day of worship or rest.

Bergen County is notable for its blue laws because shoppers can only buy food, pet supplies and jewelry on Sundays. They are not able to buy clothes, building supplies, furniture, kitchenware, appliances or electronics.

Modernize Bergen County has a 2,500-signature petition that they hope will repeal the law in Bergen County, which houses several major malls including Paramus Park, The Outlets at Bergen Town Center and Garden State Plaza.

“This is the day that people with families get things done,” said Amy Margolin, a volunteer for the group. “Why can’t you just open your store?”

The group’s official Facebook page says Bergen County has significant populations of Jewish and Muslim residents whose observant members would not be celebrating the Sunday Sabbath with most of their Christian neighbors. Plus, the substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday, due to the blue laws, or on Saturday, due to religious observance.

Bergen County is the last county in New Jersey to have blue laws. Officials have faced challenges to repeal the blue laws four times, but each time the law has stayed. One special case was when Governor Chris Christie signed an order to keep stores open for one Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year.

Margolin added that, in the past, Saturday storms leave Bergen County residents at a loss because they cannot get supplies on Sundays. This means a whole weekend locked out of stores.

“How dare Bergen County have people get out of the county and not reimburse for mileage because they can’t get things done,” she said.

Ramapo student Dana Dente, 21, thinks that the repeal of the law would be good for economic purposes, especially because the College is within the county.

“It’s an inconvenience, and it makes me want to go home on the weekends because there’s nothing to do except go out to eat,” said Dente. “Kids here want to do something, and they are just stuck in their rooms.”

However, Ramapo student Brian Nazzaro, 21, who works at DSW in Passaic County, believes that the blue laws are a “necessary evil” because they give surrounding towns outside of Bergen County more business.

“Ridding the blue laws would mean less business, which would boil down to less hours as an employee because of the low volume of customers,” said Nazzaro. “From a business perspective, I prefer to have the money.”

He said the $40,000-plus revenue they are making on Sundays is great business for them, while the DSW stores in Paramus and Ramsey are closed.

Margolin feels that the blue laws are simply outdated.

“Having these laws in today’s day and age negates the liberties and principles this country was built on,” Margolin said. “Our Founding Fathers would be ashamed if we still had these.”