Alcohol Blue Laws (Laws Prohibiting Sunday Sales of Alcoholic Beverages)

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.

Other early blue laws prohibited work, travel, recreation, and activities such as cooking, shaving, cutting hair, wearing either lace or precious metals, sweeping, making beds, kissing, and engaging in sexual intercourse. The Puritans believed that a child was born on the same day of the week on which it was conceived. Therefore, the parents of children born on a Sunday were punished for violating the blue law nine months earlier.

Blue laws have operated to protect Christian business owners from competition on their sabbath. However, they don't protect from competition those (such as Jews and Muslims) whose sabbath is Saturday. Thus blue laws have established a double standard in favor of Christians.

Although blue laws requiring Sunday church attendance disappeared in the nineteenth century because they violated citizen' rights to religious freedoms, other blue laws have continued to exist into the modern era. In Texas, for example, blue laws prohibited selling house wares such as pots, pans, and washing machines on Sunday until 1985, and car dealerships in the state continue to operate under blue-law prohibitions. Many states still prohibit selling alcohol on Sunday, although it's now the second busiest shopping day of the week.

In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Lord's Day Act of 1906 was an unconstitutional violation of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms It found that there was no legitimate secular basis for the legislation and its only purpose was, in effect, to establish a state religious-based requirement, and was therefore invalid.

Similarly, courts in New York and Connecticut have ruled that, because blue laws were created and propagated by religious groups for religious purposes, they are unconstitutional. Nevertheless, blue laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays continue to exist and be enforced.

Religion, Morality, and Blue Laws

Effects of Alcohol Blue Laws

Blue Law in Georgia

Blue Law in Connecticut

More Blue Laws


Readings on Alcohol Blue Laws:

  • Alcohol sales: Beyond demon rum. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 11,2005.
  • Ammons, David. WA Sunday liquor sales a big hit. Associated Press, January 20, 2007.
  • Anderson, S.R. Governor John G. Richards and the Blue Laws. M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1983.
  • Blue Laws. The Columbia Encyclopedia. NY: Columbia University Press, 6th ed., 2001.
  • Blue laws has some in state seeing red: This is getting embarrassing, Tuscaloosa News, April 21, 2008.
  • Blue Sunday, Tulsa World, April 16, 2008.
  • Brubaker, Brandy. Group wants to end W. Va. blue laws: One of 15 states that ban Sunday liquor sales, Dominion Post, April 22, 2008.
  • Cameron, Duncan H. Arkansas OK on Sunday, Illinois Beverage Guide, 2009, 9(4), 4.
  • Capp, Reilly. Come July, liquor stores open Sundays, Telluride News, April 22, 2008.
  • Carpenter, C.S. and Eisenberg, D. Effects of Sunday sales restrictions on overall and day-specific alcohol consumption: Evidence from Canada. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2009, 70, 126-133.
  • Chase, R. Sunday liquor laws get watered down: States undo Prohibition- era sales ban. Washington Times, 6-2-03, p. A2.
  • Columbus officials eye Sunday alcohol. Commercial-Appeal, August 23, 2009
  • Connecticut must legalize Sunday alcohol sales. The Daily Campus, October 3, 2005.
  • Easing up on blue laws - states profit from tossing out Prohibition-era rules. U.S. News & World Report, July 21, 2008, 22.
  • Erikksson, Ann M. The Blue Law Sunday Prohibitions. Columbus, OH: Ohio Legislative Services Commission, 1963.
  • Flowerdew, Nelson J. Sunday Blue Laws and other Blessings. Los Angeles, CA: Pacific Press, 1914.
  • Gerber,A.S., et al. Does church attendance cause people to vote? : using blue laws' repeal to estimate the effect of religiosity on voter turnout. Cambridge, MA : National Bureau of Economic Research, 2008. Working paper # 14303.
  • Gibbs on the wisdom of blue laws. Time - New York U.S. edition), August 2, 2004,164(5), 90.
  • Hanna, J. Committee endorses proposal on Sunday liquor, beer sales. Associated Press, November 24, 2003.
  • Harper, William G. A short history of the Texas Blue Laws. M.A. thesis, Texas Tech University, 1973.
  • Join Together. Sunday Alcohol-Related Crashes Rise with "Blue Law" Repeal. October 4, 2006.
  • Laband, David N., and Heinbuch, Deborah. Blue Laws: The History, Economics, and Politics of Sunday-closing Laws. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987.
  • LeFavi, Bob. Guest column: Separate Holy Scripture from opinion on alcohol referendum. Savannah Morning News, December 13, 2007.
  • Machan, T.R. Blue laws are unjust and unequal. Free Inquiry, 2008, 28(6), 21-22.
  • McMillan, G.P. and Lapham, S. Effectiveness of bans and laws in reducing traffic deaths: Legalizing Sunday packaged alcohol sales and alcohol-related traffic crashes and crash fatalities in New Mexico. American Journal of Public Health, 2006, 96(11), 1944-1948
  • Maloney, M.T. and Rudbeck, J.C. The outcome from legalizing Sunday packaged alcohol sales on traffic accidents in New Mexico. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2009, 41(5), 1094-1098.
  • Marsh, Ralph E. The Development of the Pennsylvania Blue Laws. M.A. thesis, Shippensburg State College, 1975.
  • Myers, Gustavus. Ye Olden Blue Laws. NY: Century Co., 1921.
  • Obscure state law bans alcohol sales on Monday. Boston Globe, December 24, 2005.
  • Orlando, A. Law change won't spur liquor sales. Milford Daily News, November 29, 2003.
  • Painter, S. Panel supports Sunday liquor sales. Wichita Eagle, November 25, 20003.
  • Pearson, E. NYC's blue laws. Gothan Gazette, May 5, 2003.
  • Perdue, Sonny. The tragic cost of Sunday alcohol sales. Banner-Herald. March 28, 2008.
  • Randal, J. R. Old-Time Blue Laws. Worcester, MA: Charles E. Burbank and Co., 1879.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Grant Results. Car Crashes, Fatalities Rise Sharply With New Mexico Sunday Package Liquor Sales. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, November, 2007.
  • Salzer, James. Purdue opposes vote on Sunday beer, wine. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 18, 2007.
  • Scarborough, Scott. Sunday alcohol sales an affront to moral values. Courier Press, November 8, 2005.
  • Senator proposes lifting ban on Sunday morning alcohol sales. Detroit Free Press, May 3, 2005.
  • Smith, J.J. Bars want alcohol law changed. Southern Voice, February 14, 2003.
  • Soulsman, Gary. Blue laws a burden for other faiths. The News Journal, July 20, 2003.
  • Store halts Sunday sales of hairspray, mouthwash. Associate Press (3-29-03).
  • Sunday sales dilemma: No legitimate reason to support alcohol ban (editorial). Independent-Mail (Anderson, SC), September 16, 2007.
  • The Blue Laws of Connecticut. NY: Truth Seekers Co., 1899.
  • Van Dolson, L.R. and Spangler, J.R. The Case against Saturday Blue Laws. Nashville, TN. : Southern Pub. Association, 1977.
  • Virtanen, M. Study Says Ending Blue Laws Would Add Jobs, Tax Revenues.
  • Associated Press, June 19, 2002.
  • Wheildon, W. W. Blue Laws and their Origin. MA: W. W.Wheildon, 1886.
  • Why Do We Have Sunday Blue Laws? In: Voorhees, Don. The Book of Totally Useless Information. NY: MFJ Books, 1993.
  • WTOV 9, Ohio passes Sunday liquor law. Ohio becomes the 31st state to pass the law, June 18, 2004.

Filed Under: Prohibition