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Op-Ed: Towns Should Dictate Blue Laws

Blue Laws 'handicap' local businesses, writes Teaneck councilman and former mayor

The following op-ed was submitted by Elie Y. Katz, a council member and former Teaneck mayor. 

 

Ah yes, the Blue Laws.

When I was Mayor of Teaneck, at the request of many Teaneck residents, I briefly touched the third rail of this "taboo" subject by looking into a referendum question for Teaneck voters.

It was not the harsh phone call from the Paramus Borough Attorney, nor the legal threats from mall operators outside Bergen County nor the concern from many husbands about their wives getting an extra day of shopping that made the Council withdraw the question.  Rather, it was the fact that we were not legally permitted to offer a referendum question on a law which the state controls.

It seems a little strange that in a country which strives for justice and prides itself on its successful separation of Church and State, that government can prevent us from purchasing underwear and socks on Sunday.

While I am personally a firm believer in and supporter of having a day of rest, I would never force my beliefs on others. In fact, most proponents of Blue Laws today are not at all maintaining their position  because of religious beliefs.

There are two main focal points for Blue Law support. One is the town of Paramus. That town's residents rightly feel they are harassed  by traffic and visitors six days a week and deserve some peace and tranquility one day a week, Sunday.

A secondary opposition derives from mall operators outside Bergen County. They want Bergen County residents to spend their money with them. Capitalism as we understand it gives these mall operators the right to pursue their own interest politically and I would not have  it any other way.

You can't blame or fault either of those groups, because they have valid perspectives.

While some argue that having seven days of shopping will act as a pressure valve and relieve some of the Route 4 and 17 congestion, it is a certainty that six days of shopping guarantees Paramus residents one day of a traffic free, noise free community with a seven day a week tax base.

Neither group of Blue Law proponents, however, shows concern that local downtown business districts in other communities suffer because they fail to attract both office and commercial businesses that want or need to be open seven days a week or that close some other day. In Teaneck, for example, many businesses are closed on Saturday and there is even a mistaken perception that those businesses which are open Saturday are closed that day.

There have not till now been enough politicians with the political will power to take on this sacred cow because the supporters of removing Blue Laws are a silent majority while those who are against any changes to the rules are a very vocal minority. If state politicians do change or alter the rules, they should allow each municipality to dictate their own situation and opt in or out on an individual basis.

Paramus could then impose the absolutely strictest Blue Law for itself and rightly keep their Sunday peace and quiet while other towns could look to rebuild their business districts.

The pressure valve that clearly most requires easement is to be found in residents' need to shift their tax burden more onto their town's commercial entities and away from residential homeowners. This can only be accomplished by building up such a town's commercial base.

Bergen County residents are struggling with some of the nations highest property taxes and yet do not have the final say that municipalities everywhere else in New Jersey and throughout the United States have to determine when they might conduct business.

How many more jobs could be created if hundreds of Bergen County stores were open one more day?

At a time when local brick and mortar merchants of all sizes are struggling against the competition of the internet, closing Sunday adds on an additional handicap to the burdens of small business owners and their workforce, our neighbors.

Rick March 21, 2013 at 01:30 PM
@Beth...so stay home and get your rest, no one is telling you, you cant rest close your windows and close your doors, but dont let your desire for peace infirnge on my rights to go out an earn a living by operating my establishment
TSDK March 24, 2013 at 04:45 AM
I am going to say it has to do with the idea that people might assume Orthodox Jews would hate the blue laws. They can't shop on Saturday, so with the Blue Laws, they can't shop near home on Sunday either. Sunday isn't their Sabbath so theoretically it could hurt their businesses, having one in Bergen and only being able to be open mon-fri.
TSDK March 24, 2013 at 04:51 AM
I've lived in Bergen County since 1976 except for 7 years when I went to college and stayed by there for a little while after. What would be really awesome is if you want to make a point with "facts"- make sure your facts are correct. 99% of Paramus residents came AFTER the town was built up with all the malls?? Really? And the Plaza borders Maywood & Rochelle Park where the traffic is RIDICULOUS. It's great knowing if I have to be in NYC or down the shore on a Sunday, I can at least make it out of Bergen in decent time. I like the opportunity to go to a restaurant in Bergen on a Sunday without a two hour wait by 6p. I also saw after Hurricane Sandy how nice it was to be able to walk around Ridgewood on a Sunday and do more than window shop. I see both sides of the arguments. I own a small business not open on Sundays because of blue laws and can't say I don't like it since we have only one employee and we have to be there all six days. It's nice for US to have one forced day off. We don't ever take vacation because who can focus on vacation when you're thinking about all the possible money you're losing not being open. But I also live in a town with some of the highest property taxes in the county. So I get it. There are two sides. But for pete's sake- stop throwing around opinions & statistics as facts when they aren't. Check your spelling while you're at it too.
Lisa Dee May 25, 2013 at 07:27 AM
Elie, Paramus Park just approved 13 movie theaters and restaurants. This will add approx: 100,000+ cars on Sundays on side and main roads. The Blue Laws according to Paeamus is a Quality of Life issue,LOL. If it benefits the Paramus taxpayer no matter how badly it affects its neighbors does not seem to matter. Elie, its time for Paramus to knock off the hypocrisy. Bergen County should repeal Blue Laws and let each town decide for itself. Elie, you know a sabbath observant clothing store operator can't make it without Sunday. If Monsey and Spring have Dress shops that would open but they can't survive without Sunday opening.
Lisa Dee May 26, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Elie, I would encourage this group to hold off pushing for a vote. I would wait till after election and approach Govenor Christie who only backed off issue now for votes. Christie needs no convincing he knows sales feom east Bergen and Northern Bergen are going to New York on Sunday's. We can try and save a few downtowns. Paramus can stay closed. We can increase sales tax from lost sales to New York,payroll taxes, jobs, and if towns do better Real Estate property taxes rise this can especially help Teaneck.

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