Local Woman Seeks Repeal of Bergen Blue Laws

Rosemary Shashoua of Westwood has started the group "Modernize Bergen County" to allow stores to open on Sundays.

One Westwood resident is fed up with Bergen County's "blue laws" and is working to have the "old fashioned" rules appealed.

"All I want is more revenue for the state and more jobs," Rosemary Shashoua said.

Shashoua has found some like-minded county residents and started a new group called "Modernize Bergen County" with the goal of repealing the blue laws, the rules which prohibit the sale of items like clothing, furniture and appliances on Sundays.

Shashoua said she was inspired to start the group after Hurricane Sandy, when Gov. Chris Christie temporarily suspended county blue laws to aid recovery from the storm.

"Nobody had any clothing and nobody had anything to fix up their houses," Shashoua said, referring to residents displaced by the storm. "They weren't there to open up the jewelry store."

Repealing the laws could also have benefits beyond times immediately after storms, Shashoua said. Having stores open an extra day could create additonal jobs and bring in more money from shoppers.

Not everyone agrees. When the governor temporarily suspended the laws after the storm, Paramus officials objected to the change, taking the decision to court.

"The Blue Laws are absolutely essential to keeping Paramus livable and I will never stop fighting to make sure they are always here to protect our quality of life," Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said after a judge upheld the suspension.

Still, Shashoua is confident others will side with her. She and Modernize Bergen County plan to obtain 10,000 signatures for a petition to get a referendum on the ballot either this year or next year, and have already been in contact with some county malls, officials and chambers of commerce about the plan.

Bergen County has a long tradition with blue laws. The current law originated in the 1950s after the Garden State Plaza was built and became a popular destination for shoppers.

The blue laws have been challenged twice: once in 1980 and again in 1993. The plans to repeal the laws were defeated 192,394 to 157,648 in 1980 and 185,821 to 105,040 in 1993.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

Peter Dinella January 17, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Good for you, Rosemary. I lived in Bergen County for over 30 years so I have a right to comment. Go for it. What I never liked about Blue Laws was their religious origin and their impact on private business. I always saw then as unconstitutional, too. Based on the below Wikipedia quote, I was on target and well ahead of my time. Time to "catch up" Bergen County: "A blue law is a type of law designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of a day of worship or rest. In the US, most blue laws have been repealed, declared unconstitutional, or are simply unenforced; though prohibitions on the sale of alcoholic beverages or prohibitions of almost all commerce on Sundays are still enforced in many areas. Blue laws often prohibit an activity only during certain hours and there are usually exceptions to the prohibition of commerce, like grocery and drug stores. In some places, blue laws may be enforced due to religious principles, but others are retained as a matter of tradition or out of convenience."
Brenda Gardner January 20, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Wow! Anyone would think we were living in the dark ages. What's up with BC that it adheres to antiquated, ridiculous laws? You don't want to work on Sunday? Don't. You don't want to open you store on Sunday? Don't. You want to work, or open up you store on Sunday? Do. It's that easy. Ever heard of live and let live. Does the Blue Laws stop us shopping. NO! We just travel to Wayne to the mall there and guess what? Wayne benefits. Not a problem in my books, but hey living in the past is that. Living in the past. Wake up BC and move into the 21st century.
Sonya Buckman January 20, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Even closed on Sundays the retailers in Bergen County make enough money to justify this area being a retail mecca. We all need a day of "rest" from traffic. Chris Peter's (above) is right it will not increase sales in the stores nor will it increase employment. Retail is grueling overall and there is nothing wrong with employees knowing they have one day off a week and that we all have one day a week that we can drive around our county without having to add 30 minutes to every trip for bumper to bumper traffic.
annette January 21, 2013 at 02:12 AM
i will sign this womans petition...we need more jobs in this awful economy!!!! these paramus people are insane and living in the past!!!!
Debbi January 24, 2013 at 09:22 PM
I don't believe in the blue law. I work full time and sometimes on Saturday. I could only shop on Sunday. By the time I get home, cook dinner, cleanup It's almost 7:00 pm that leaves me a very small window of time to buy items my children need. And who wants to be out till 9 pm on a school night. So I'm forced to shop on Sunday in Wayne or Secaucus, with all the other Bergen County residents. It should be up to each individual town.


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