Bergen County Blue Laws Protect Us from Sunday Shirts

Beware the evils of textile purchases on Sunday. And don’t even think of that coffee maker. For booze, please just wait until 1 pm.

Costco Hackensack Bergen County NJ Blue Laws 01

With my parents visiting we rented a car and stopped at Japanese supermarket Mitsuwa Marketplace, which brings the taste of home’s crushingly expensive prices to Japanese expatriates in the NYC area (free shuttle from Port Authority). Liquor was roped off until 1 pm due to Bergen County’s Blue Laws. Not that remarkable to me, a number of states, including my native Minnesota, have varying prohibitions on Sunday alcohol sales. My father had a comical interaction with a store associate, trying to ask him the name of a bottle of beer just a bit too far to see the label clearly. Nope, cannot even know the name.

Then we saw those cute Japanese water heaters were roped off all day. What the?

We continued to Costco in Hackensack. Grocery sales are allowed so the store was open, however the barricading of aisles and the central clothing section was hilarious.

Costco Hackensack Bergen County NJ Blue Laws 02

This history and effects is fascinating:

The blue law enforced in the county is actually a state law that each county could reject by voter referendum, with 20 of the state’s 21 counties having voted to reject the legal option to enforce the law. Thus one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan areais almost completely closed on Sunday (grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment venues are among the few businesses allowed to operate). Furthermore, Bergen County has significant populations of Jewish (2000 estimate of 83,700) and Muslim (2000 estimate of 6,473) residents whose observant members would not be celebrating the Sunday Sabbath with most of their Christian neighbors. 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).

However, repeated attempts to reject the law have failed as voters either see keeping the law on the books as a protest against the growing trend toward increasing hours and days of commercial activity in American society or enjoy the sharply reduced traffic on major roads and highways on Sunday that is normally seen the other days of the week. In fact, a large part of the reason for maintaining the laws has been a desire for relative peace and quiet one day of the week by many Bergen County residents. (Source: Wikipedia)

Costco Hackensack Bergen County NJ Blue Laws 03

This reminds me of first showing up as a college freshman in Philiadelphia. My German roommate, then a junior, was bemoaning the state liquor monopoly. I naively said that couldn’t be possible, this is America after all, not some socialist Euro country. He took me on a tour of the dilapidated Wine & Spirit Shoppe, now rebranded as Fine Wine & Good Spirits, then discussed the role of Camden, NJ as Greater Philadelphia’s liquor store.

What quirky US laws lay out there for tourists to find?

(postscript: confirming that Bergen County is no fun, Costco Hackensack does not offer the chocolate ice cream bar slathered in almonds…on any day. In fairness, neither does Harlem.)

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  1. Welcome to our neck of the woods … There was recently an attempt to have blue laws placed back on the ballot but someone misread the guidelines and did not procure the 50k signatures. Its no fun not being able to pick up goods over the weekend.

  2. The Bergen County Blue Laws are ridiculous. After being born and raised in Bergen County for more than 20 years, I’m happy I left that area. Just because the residents in Paramus don’t want to deal with the traffic or work on Sundays, doesn’t mean everybody else in the county shouldn’t have the ability to shop. If you don’t want to deal with the traffic then don’t live in Paramus or Bergen County.

  3. @Jimmy, @Mike – about my only impression of NJ is the grim traffic on US 1 & 9 and depressing sounding stops on the NJT NE Corridor like Metropark. The north of the state does seem to be endless crumbling roads and heavy traffic.

  4. Totally bugs me too! I have been living in Bergen County for 4 years and it sucks to not be able to buy things as you need… Sunday is usually my day for getting stuff done too.

  5. While certainly unusual, perhaps a day of rest isn’t such a bad idea. It seems enough people like it, otherwise the law would have been changed. If people don’t like the local laws, why not move?

  6. I don’t mind the Blue Laws since you can go outside of Bergen County and get better deals at the outlets like Jersey Gardens or Woodbury Commons. You can also go to Newport Mall or Willowbrook Mall. There are a ton of other places you can go to.

  7. I love the old Blue Laws! It is not so hard to plan ahead for one day out of the week to have things needed for that day already purchased. You can then spend that time with family or relaxing alone. I believe that there are many other countries besides the US that have these same laws (ie. Germany), and the residents there use the day to take walks, bike, etc.

  8. As a Bergen County resident for over 30 years, I LOVE the Blue Laws! Sunday is the one day we can go anyway without the 4 and 17 traffic jamb and we can invite company over without them griping about the traffic as they walk in the door!

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