Blue Laws: Blessing Or Curse?

Publish Date: 
Mar 18, 2010
By Holly J. Wagner

WITH THE ECONOMY still careening on two wheels and states scrambling for revenue, letting retailers take advantage of every opportunity seems like a no-brainer, but that’s not necessarily true.

Some dealers along with state legislators are challenging one of the country’s oldest conventions: the few surviving Blue Laws banning various forms of commerce – including vehicle sales in some jurisdictions – on Sundays.

Blue laws date back to the Puritans, who imposed the bans for religious reasons. The laws persisted into modern times, often on the rationale that it creates one day for family togetherness. The most common target of blue laws is liquor sales. But Dealernews found that while just three states still ban the sales of alcohol on Sundays, 13 states ban Sunday automotive sales, in at least some areas.

Some states have repealed their automotive blue laws in the last decade. These include Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Greenwood County, S.C. lifted its blue law last October.

Vehicle dealers are all over the opinion scale. In some areas dealers are seeking to have the restrictions lifted; in Oregon two years ago, auto dealers asked the state legislature for a blue law but failed to succeed; and in some places challenges have failed.

Arguments in favor of the blue laws: that they create a day off without fear of losing sales to the competition; they let dealers close on a slow sales day; there is no DMV or F&I infrastructure available on Sundays to record transactions; they promote family values; and they enable workers to observe the Sabbath.

Arguments against the laws:  they don’t reflect modern society; some dealers miss opportunities or lose sales to neighboring jurisdictions that don’t have blue laws; working people can shop more easily on Sundays; private parties are not barred from selling on Sundays; and not all faiths observe the same Sabbath day. (Continued)