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.
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.
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)
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.)