North Carolina State Blue Laws

By Scott Thompson

A discussion of the "blue laws" or laws regulating the purchase of alcohol and other activities on Sunday in the state of North Carolina.

Blue laws restrict or prohibit certain activities on Sundays, a holdover from the strict Sabbath observance of colonial times. The first known blue law was passed in 1665 in New Haven, Connecticut, and supposedly took its name from having been printed on blue paper. North Carolina's blue laws began in 1716, with the passage of the Sabbath Observance Act. Some blue laws still remain on the books in North Carolina.

History of the Blue Laws

The Sabbath Observance Act of 1716 banned prostitution, profane language and other inappropriate behavior on Sundays. It was replaced in 1741 by a law that kept most types of business from opening on the Sabbath. This law was not observed strictly by most people, but in the late 19th century many local governments in North Carolina began to pass and enforce stricter blue laws.

Because many of the blue laws were local ordinances, they were not consistent from one town to the next. However, by the 1930s the blue laws were so restrictive that much of North Carolina virtually shut down on Sundays. Only a few businesses were allowed to remain open, including gas stations and pharmacies. A statewide Sunday Closing Law was passed in 1961, but the North Carolina Supreme Court declared it overly vague and struck it down in 1962. Only a few state blue laws are still in effect.

None Before Noon

Under North Carolina General Statute 18B-1004(c), it is illegal to buy any alcohol or to drink any at a bar between closing time early Sunday morning and noon Sunday. However, wholesalers can deliver alcohol during those hours. The law also gives city and county governments the right to prohibit alcohol until 7 a.m. on Monday.

No Large Loads

The North Carolina Department of Transportation grants 170,000 permits every year for oversize loads. However, it is illegal in North Carolina to drive any oversize truck load on a Sunday and on certain holidays. This law primarily affects farmers and trucking companies, but many businesses rely on seven-day trucking services to achieve just-in-time deliveries. The North Carolina Farm Act of 2015, also known as North Carolina Senate Bill 513, will change the law and allow oversize loads on Sundays and New Year's, Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends.

Hunting Restrictions

Hunting on Sundays in North Carolina was illegal until 2015, when the North Carolina House passed House Bill 640. Although this bill makes it legal to hunt on Sundays, it also bans hunting within 500 yards of a church on Sundays and allows county governments to pass their own blue laws banning Sunday hunting. The bill was then sent to the North Carolina Senate, which added additional restrictions banning hunting before noon on Sundays. The House then extended the ban until 12:30 p.m. on Sunday before passing the bill June 24, 2015. The bill was then sent to Gov. Pat McCrory who as of July 1, 2015, had not signed it.