Blue Laws In Decline

USA Today had an interesting report that more and more states are finally relaxing their antiquated blue laws and allowing alcohol to be — gasp — sold on Sundays. In the article, entitled Sunday Alcohol Sales Are on the Rise in U.S., it is revealed that “[s]ince 2002, 14 states have joined the list of states allowing Sunday sales of [alcohol], bringing the total to 36.” But that means there are still 14 more states, plus D.C., that prohibit Sunday sales of alcohol.

According to Dvaid J. Hanson, author the wonderful website, Alcohol: Problems and Solutions:

A blue law is one restricting activities or sales of goods on Sunday, to accommodate the Christian sabbath. The first blue law in the American colonies was enacted in Virginia in 1617. It required church attendance and authorized the militia to force colonists to attend church services.

As Wikipedia adds. “Most have been repealed, have been declared unconstitutional, or are simply unenforced, although prohibitions on the sale of alcoholic beverages, and occasionally almost all commerce, on Sundays are still enforced in many areas,” despite the fact that Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week.

As Lisa Hawkins, with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, put it, “[b]lue laws … simply don’t make sense in today’s economy. They inconvenience consumers and deprive states of much-needed tax revenue.” But economy aside, you’d think people would recognize that the origin of these laws to it to force religious practices on everyone, despite principles of religious freedom and not all citizens following the same faith. Apparently, you’d be wrong. One naysayer, Bruce Beckman (a council member in Downers Grove, Illinois who voted against modifying local blue laws), is quoted as saying he voted against changing his community’s blue laws because the “relatively small amount of tax revenue this might generate isn’t as important as using Sunday mornings for family, going to church … and not sitting in a bar somewhere.”

To me that’s an unbelievable rationale. I can hardly fathom someone holding such an opinion in 2010. Nobody’s stopping him from attending church or spending the day with his family, but that he believes he has the right to force everyone else in his community to do likewise is deeply offensive. It’s absolutely none of his business how I choose to spend my Sunday and that he thinks he should actively keep it illegal to do something he personally doesn’t care for is a tyranny, no matter how slight or small.

Happily, such outmoded points of view are visibly in decline, as evidenced by the increasing number of states doing away with these old-fashioned laws. Below you can see which states, in white, are still behind the times.



  1. says

    But there are still SO MANY other kinds of “blue laws.” In Iowa, for example, we can buy alcohol on Sunday. But we still can’t buy much of anything via mail and what we can buy here is still restricted. Infinium? No way. Utopias? Fuhgettaboudit.

  2. beerman49 says

    “Blue Laws” are BS, as was prohibition! But – in most states, they apply more to liquor than to beer & wine. People who want to drink alcohol will do so – but will pay more for hard stuff in “blue law” areas on Sunday (to the black marketeers who load up on small bottles for the weekend).

    The map isn’t entirely accurate – PA’s state-run/franchised stores that sell booze & wine aren’t open on Sunday (unless something’s changed recently that I’m unaware of), & you can’t buy wine or beer in a grocery store – beer to go only from a place with an on-sale license; beer by the case/keg from a distributor (don’t know if they’re allowed to be open on Sunday). WA has state-run/franchised liquor stores that it controls; last time I was there, closed on Sunday. Southern states (FL & LA excepted), UT, MT, & the “puritan” parts of New England are a hodgepodge of “local option” & state/local govt control for liquor sales. “By the drink” booze is pretty much universal, except for maybe OK, UT, & a few odd “local option” counties elsewhere.

    Some places never will get over their cranial-rectal inversion about Sunday alcohol sales – PA certainly is the worst (given its population) & should revamp its entire liquor law & taxing structure – it’s losing mucho liquor & wine sales to residents (at least 50 % of the populace) who live close to lower-priced states (MD/NJ/NY, who for sure sell on Sunday; maybe OH & WV). Beer’s the only alcohol in PA that’s reasonably-priced compared to CA & most other places I’ve been.

  3. says

    Alabama has counties that are wet on Sunday after 12pm when you can buy beer, wine, or hard liquor. So having Alabama on the list is misleading.

    It is a complex situation, though, because there are still some dry counties, but they are slowly changing to be wet over time.

  4. says

    I’m a bit behind on the times with this article, but Montana — at least all the places I’ve been to on Sunday — allow you to buy and serve alcohol. I buy beer in Missoula all the time on Sunday. I’ve done it in Great Falls and I’m sure in a few other areas too. It might be on the books, but it sure isn’t enforced AT ALL.

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