California Blue Law

California's blue laws concerning alcohol are more lax than those in many other states.
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The term "blue law" refers to a state, county or municipal government's restrictions on the sale of alcohol, or to quirky, obsolete and otherwise difficult-to-enforce laws generally left on the books from earlier times. This article gives a brief explanation of the term's origin and examines both varieties of Blue Laws in California today.


Blue laws originated as restrictions on the sale of goods on Sabbath days. According to Dr. David J. Hanson, the first American blue law mandated church attendance of Virginian colonists in 1617 and authorized the militia to enforce attendance. In its colloquial meaning, the term has come to denote a law that is unenforceable or antiquated, but it historically refers to a state or county's alcohol laws.


Compared with many other states, California has relatively few statewide Blue Laws on the books limiting the sale of alcohol. Three types of alcohol are regulated by California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control: beer, wine and spirits. According to, all three can be sold at convenience stores, grocery stores and private retail stores between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. seven days a week. Absinthe is legal in California, open containers of alcohol may be kept in the trunk, and the minimum legal age to sell alcohol is 18.

Exception for Children

In California, it is illegal for a minor to consume any alcohol at all--even when in the presence of a parent or legal guardian--with one exception: a small portion may be consumed as part of a religious service.

Other Blue Laws

California Loony Laws reports that animals are banned from mating in public within 1,500 feet of a school, tavern or place of worship. Additionally, Redwood City outlaws the frying of gravy; a person in Blythe County may not publicly wear cowboy boots unless he owns a minimum of two cows; mousetraps may not be set without first procuring a hunting license; more than 2,000 sheep may not be driven down Hollywood Boulevard at any one time; and children may not be kept from jumping playfully over puddles of water. Finally, the detonation of a nuclear device within the Chino city limits may result in a fine of $500.

Expert Insight

California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control defines a binge drinker as a man who had five or more alcoholic drinks in a row in one month, or a woman who had four or more. It estimates as well that more than half of Californians 12 and older use alcohol every month.