Bergen County residents making Sunday plans can count on one thing: the mall is not an option. Bergen County is one of the last in the United States to enforce “blue laws,” the seemingly pesky restrictions on what is bought and sold on Sundays.
The history of blue laws in Bergen County began in the 1950s, when cavernous shopping centers, like the Garden State Plaza, opened their doors. Owners of small-town businesses, fearful of having to work on Sundays to maintain their income, teamed up with church groups and those concerned about traffic. Together, they were able to prohibit the sale of appliances, electronics, clothing, furniture, and certain alcoholic beverages on Sundays. Since then, Bergen County residents have found if they needed to go shopping, they must cross county lines.
Many have found the blue laws to be “annoying” and “nuisances.” When the weekend is usually the only free time to go to the store and make purchases, people find it troublesome that their shopping period is further shortened by blue laws. While I have experienced my fair share of frustration at not being able to go shopping for that one dress or to buy a new phone on a Sunday, I don’t mind the laws.
We live in a busy world, always trying to maximize our productivity levels by rushing from one task to the next. Blue laws make us stop our franticness for one day of the week. Yes, you can escape the bans by just driving to nearby Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties, or even New York. However, I like to believe people only do this if they desperately need to make that purchase.
Living under the blue laws have allowed me to understand how Sunday is meant to be a day of rest. To me, the first day of the week has become a day of family and friends. We are not distracted by going to the mall or other activities because the blue laws don’t allow them. The blue laws provide a much-needed time for respite in the busy world.
When I drive around my town on any given Sunday, I find a sense of peace and tranquility missing on the other days of the week. I catch families going on walks together or playing on their front lawns. Most businesses are closed, and normally the only errand people run is going to the supermarket. People are guaranteed each other’s company, free from commercial distractions. Many residents stay local on Sundays, spending time in town with close friends and families. Some of my bond-building moments have occurred on Sundays, either when I was relaxing at home with my family or hanging out with my friends at youth group.
Outside of the social benefits of the blue laws, there is a huge other benefit: traffic. How many times have you sat on Route 4 or 17, stuck behind people driving to the mall? On Sundays, when the malls are closed, those roadways or clear. For anyone who knows the daily state of Route 17, it is a fantastic sight to see it empty. When I was learning how to drive one Sunday, my driving teacher and I drove all the way up 17 and back in about forty minutes. Many new drivers also learn in the deserted parking lot of the Garden State Plaza or the Paramus Park Mall.
Bergen County’s blue laws are not necessarily a bad thing. Opponents desire the laws’ repeal to “modernize” the county and increase revenue. I argue to keep the laws because they make residents take a break from their busy lives and to just relax. Whatever your opinion, many Bergen county officials agree with the laws, striking down Governor Christie’s 2010 repeal attempt. So, as you are reading this, don’t grumble when you feel inconvenienced about not making a purchase on a Sunday, and instead feel grateful you are given that time to spend with your family.
By Heather Farrell’18, Junior Executive Editor-in-Chief