John Brennan | Staff Writer, @BergenBrennan6:00 a.m. ET June 23, 2017
An error in a "Jeopardy" clue brought the ever-simmering issue of Bergen County's blue laws back to the surface.
1. Blame It On Rome
The idea of setting one day per week aside for leisure is said to date back to the Roman Emperor Constantine about 1700 years ago.
AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
2. What's "Blue" About This Law, Anyway?
The most commonly-cited reason is that these business-related descriptions originally were written on blue paper, or in books that had blue covers. Historians say it more likely has to with the 18th-century custom of the word "blue" being used to describe any moral code cultural restrictions.
3. New Jersey Went "Blue" A Long Time Ago
A blue law restricting most activities on Sundays dates back to 1704, and in 1798 the state Legislature incorporated it into a new law called the “Act to Suppress Vice and Immorality.”
4. Twenty Counties Bailed, But Bergen Stayed Blue
A key moment in time was the 1959 vote to allow each of New Jersey's 21 counties to make individual decisions on blue laws. Ten counties preferred the status quo — at first.
In 1980, Bergen County voters elected not to repeal the county's blue laws that limit shopping on ...more
The Record file photo
Hudson County voters decided in 1985 to become the 20th of 21 counties to repeal the state's blue laws.
5. Why Can't We Vote On This?
Bergen voters did so in 1980 - when the repeal was narrowly defeated - and in 1993 - when the repeal was overwhelmingly rejected after a bitter campaign.
A 2013 bid to put the issue back on the county ballot failed to produce the required amount of signatures.
6. Some Towns Wanted To Get Rid Of The Blue Laws
In 1993, four out of the 70 Bergen County municipalities voted to repeal: Edgewater, Alpine, Lyndhurst, and North Arlington. They lost.
7. Paramus Has A Unique Take On The Blue Laws
In Jan. 1986, Gov. Tom Kean signed a bill into law that allowed Bergen municipalities to have their own blue laws, even if the county at some point removed its bans. The state Supreme Court upheld that option six months later.
That decision allowed Paramus to maintain even stricter blue laws than in the rest of the county. Paramus voters in 1993 rejected the idea of a blue laws repeal by more than a 12 to 1 margin, with the need to maintain one day a week minus the hustle and bustle in the "mall capital of America" often cited by voters. It seems unlikely that the town will ever repeal its own blue laws entirely.
8. Will American Dream Meadowlands Be Affected By The Bergen Blue Laws?
The shopping and entertainment project - now scheduled to open in 2019 - is located in East Rutherford/Bergen County. Like many stores, it is expected to be open on Sundays but limited in what can be offered for sale.
The issue could become complicated, however. If a celebrity chef holds a cooking demonstration for a crowd of paying customers on a Sunday, can those customers buy the products the chef recommended at a store within the complex? Project operator Triple Five says simply that it will abide by all relevant laws.
9. Governor Christie Tried To Step Into The Blue Laws Issue In 2010
Christie's inclusion of a $65 million line item in his 2010 preliminary budget from sales taxes to be collected at Bergen shopping centers on Sundays drew intense blowback from many lawmakers. It also worried Republicans concerned that the issue could impact the County Executive race that fall. Within a week, Christie backed off from the notion.
CHRIS MONROE / SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
10. The Blue Laws Were Lifted Temporarily After Superstorm Sandy
Bergen County retailers were open on the first two Sundays following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, before Governor Christie reinstated the blue laws.
11. What Penalties Does A Retailer Face If They Violate These Blue Laws?
First offense – fine of $250
Second offense – fine between $250 and $1,000
Third offense – fine between $1000 and $2000 and/or 30 days in jail
Fourth offense and subsequent offenses – fine between $2000 and $5000 and/or 30 days to six months in jail