Posted on: January 26, 2023

Blue Laws by State: What are Sunday Blue Laws?

Blue Laws by State: What are Sunday Blue Laws? (2023)

What Are Blue Laws?

Blue laws restrict or ban certain activities – particularly the sale of certain goods or services – on a particular day of the week. In the Western and Christian world, these laws often apply on Sunday, while Jewish or Muslim traditional laws will apply to their sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).

In the U.S., blue laws are also known as Sunday laws or Sunday closing laws and usually restrict the sale of alcohol. These laws don't just mean no alcohol on Sunday – other restrictions ban certain types of work or entertainment.

It's not clear why Sunday laws are traditionally referred to as blue laws. There are differing explanations, including the idea that the rules were meant to restrict " blue " behavior (indecent).

Blue laws exist in Canada, Austria, Germany, Norway, and Poland. In European jurisdictions, most stores must stay closed.

U.S. Blue Law History

Blue laws in the U.S. were initially designed to enforce the Christian sabbath. By the end of the colonial era, laws that banned everyday activities – like housework and travel – were largely lifted. However, blue laws remained to prevent Sunday work and limit alcohol consumption.

The enforcement of blue laws, especially related to alcohol, was revived by the temperance movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Since the original purpose of blue laws was based on Christianity, blue laws began getting challenged in the courts during the 1960s. Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided Sunday laws were permissible but should be set at the state level.

States With Blue Laws for Alcohol

The number of states with blue laws related to alcohol has been shrinking for decades as state courts struck laws down or legislatures repealed them.

This isn't surprising – liquor laws change all the time. It's essential to stay up to date, primarily if you serve or sell alcohol to customers. We recommend you complete state-specific alcohol seller/server training with a trusted provider to ensure compliance with current laws.

That said, we'll touch on the blue laws that still stand as of early 2023.

Texas Blue Law

In Texas, Sunday laws ban the sale of liquor (anything with more than 4% alcohol by weight). Liquor stores must also be closed on some holidays, and if the holiday falls on a Sunday, liquor stores must remain closed on Monday.

The state also restricts Sunday beer and wine consumption by limiting sale hours on Sunday and requiring food to accompany alcohol service before noon.

Blue Laws in Tennessee

Liquor laws in Tennessee are complicated and vary by jurisdiction. Still, their Sunday blue laws prohibit bartenders from allowing alcohol to be consumed on-premises between 3 am and either 10 am or noon (depending on whether the local government allows extended hours for alcohol sales).

Indiana Blue Laws

Indiana once had more extensive blue laws, but these days, they restrict carryout alcohol sales on Sunday mornings.

Blue Laws in Florida

Florida doesn't have any state-level blue laws.

Some counties restricted alcohol sales on Sunday, but recently, these restrictions have been lifted or relaxed. For example, Tampa lifted its regulations in 2021.

Other Alcohol-Related Blue Laws by State

Only a few states say no alcohol on Sundays entirely. It's the case in Oklahoma and most of Mississippi. However, coastal casinos in the state can give alcohol away 24/7.

Like Tennessee and Indiana, other states only ban alcohol during traditional church hours. In Ohio, you need special permits for Sunday alcohol sales, and you can't sell before 1 pm (11 am in sports arenas). North Dakota bans off-premises liquor sales before noon, though you can start dispensing alcohol an hour earlier at 11 am. In Massachusetts, off-premises sales are now allowed afternoon, with some local exceptions. Georgia allows alcohol sales after 12:30 pm in more than 100 jurisdictions.

In some states, liquor may only be sold at a limited number of state liquor stores, and laws are closing these stores on Sundays. This is the case in South Carolina and Utah. Utah further restricts Sunday consumption by requiring restaurants only to serve alcohol with food.

In North Carolina, ABC stores are closed until either 10 am or noon on Sundays, depending on the jurisdiction. Virginia also limits the ABC store hours on Sundays.

In other states, blue laws only exist at the county level. In Arkansas, most counties prohibit alcohol and liquor sales on Sundays, and many New York counties also have restrictive blue laws.

List of Blue Laws Recently Repealed

At this point, the list of blue laws that have been repealed is much longer than the list of blue laws that are still enforced.

Blue laws in Pennsylvania are now all but gone. The commonwealth lifted its Sunday liquor ban in 2002 and relaxed many restrictions applied to liquor sales in 2016. However, some Sunday activities require special alcohol permits.

Connecticut lifted its Sunday law banning alcohol sales in 2012, Delaware in 2003, and Minnesota in 2017.

Arizona repealed its Sunday law – which limited alcohol sale hours – in 2010. The District of Columbia started allowing liquor stores to remain open on Sundays in 2013.

States with Blue Laws Unrelated to Liquor

List of Blue Laws for Car Sales

Restricting motor vehicle sales is one of the most common remaining blue laws by states.

Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania restrict the sale of motor vehicles on Sunday, though some states have loopholes and exceptions.

The Texas blue law for car dealerships allows businesses to choose which sabbath day to remain closed: Saturday or Sunday.

States with Blue Laws for Hunting

Hunting bans are another still-common blue law.

Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, and many counties in West Virginia still prohibit hunting on Sunday, with few exceptions. North Carolina explicitly bans gun hunting on Sundays.

Virginia only repealed the ban on Sunday hunting for public lands in 2022. 

Blue Laws Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court declared most of its blue laws unenforceable in 1978, though car sales and hunting bans are still enforced.

Notably, restrictions on organized sports remain on the books despite multiple attempts to repeal them (most recently in 2020 and 2022).

Maryland Blue Law

In addition to restricting car sales, Maryland prevents professional sports teams from playing before 1 pm on Sunday unless the local jurisdiction allows it.

Illinois Blue Law

Aside from car dealerships, Illinois closes horse racing tracks on Sunday.

New Jersey Sunday Laws

New Jersey's only state-wide blue law is the car dealership closing law, but one county has notable blue law restrictions.

Bergen County has one of the few non-liquor Sunday closing laws left in the U.S. You're not allowed to sell electronics, clothing, or furniture. In Bergen County, Paramus has even more restrictive blue laws. All types of work are prohibited except grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and parts of the hospitality and entertainment industry.