Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Blue Laws This Sunday

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Blue Laws This Sunday

Article excerpt

After a devastating storm like Sandy, Bergen County needs to be able to shop, and do business this Sunday, even in Paramus, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday, requiring the borough to temporarily set aside enforcement of its blue laws.

The decision has supporters and opponents of the measures wondering, and worrying, about the impact the first-ever widespread Sunday store openings in Paramus will have on future Sundays, as well as on the future of the blue laws.

The office of County Executive Kathleen Donovan, who sought the court ruling, said the suspension of the blue laws most likely will be lifted after this weekend. However, Paramus officials, Bergen County state legislators and the mayors of two neighboring towns said they will fight to make sure the suspension is strictly temporary.

The court fight pitted Paramus, a borough that hosts malls that have become the virtual town squares, or surrogate downtowns for suburbanites, against Donovan and Governor Christie, who sided with the county executive's view that keeping stores open would allow people's lives to get back to normal more quickly.

State Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, said, however, that for Paramus and Bergen County, getting back to normal includes upholding the blue laws. "Our towns desperately want to return to normal, and that includes seeing the blue laws properly maintained," he said. Gordon said he didn't want to see the suspension, currently open- ended, "become an open back door for their subversion and repeal."

Assembly members Connie Wagner and Tim Eustace, both D-Bergen/ Passaic, and Rochelle Park Mayor Jay Kovalcik and River Edge Mayor Sandy Moscaritolo, also called for a quick end to the suspension of the laws.

Superior Court Judge Menelaos Toskos, who issued the ruling, said he was sympathetic with Paramus' opposition to "any whittling away" at the blue laws, noting he himself has "often had a debate about Sunday blue laws with my spouse." He emphasized that his ruling is not a judgment on the validity of the laws, but rather a response to a particular emergency situation.

"We've had a disaster that is unprecedented, at least in our lifetime," Toskos said, with residents without power for 10 days or more. Toskos also said he believed businesses such as insurance offices should be allowed to open, to process claims, and not be subject to the Paramus blue-law ordinance.

Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said the county executive has promised that this Sunday will be the last time blue laws will be suspended, "and I intend to hold her to that." He called the blue laws "absolutely essential to keeping Paramus livable."

LaBarbiera said the borough would abide by the ruling, even though Paramus residents aren't happy about it.

John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, hailed the decision, saying the governor and Donovan "should be applauded for what was nothing less than a commonsense approach to aid in the response and recovery" to the storm. …

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