The Volokh Conspiracy

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Sunday Closing Laws and New Year's Eve

A federal court holds that New York can restrict alcohol sales when NYE falls on a Sunday


UPDATED: Not sure what happened when I tried to post before, but here's what I was trying to say:

It may be hard for people to believe, but even the city that doesn't sleep occasionally takes a break from drinking. A longstanding NY State law prohibits bars from selling alcohol from 4:00 to 10:00 AM on Sundays (and from 4:00 to 8:00 AM on weekdays). The state liquor authority grants all-night permits on an exceptional basis–but never, as the song says, on Sunday.

This year, New Year's falls on a Sunday, and Eris Evolution, a bar in Brooklyn, wishes to serve alcohol all night. The state liquor authority has declined to give the bar a permit, and Eris Evolution has sued in federal court, arguing that the NY restriction violates the Establishment Clause.

Last month, the Eastern District of New York ruled for the state. Judge Block reasoned that NY's rule was constitutional under McGowan v. Maryland (1961), in which the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of the constitutionality of Sunday closing laws generally. The McGowan Court reasoned that, while Sunday closing laws originated in a desire to maintain the Christian sabbath, they had long since become secular in nature–a way for the state to promote a uniform day of rest and relaxation.

In our latest Legal Spirits podcast, my colleague, Marc DeGirolami, discuss the NY case and the Court's jurisprudence regarding Sunday closing laws more generally. How has the Court's treatment of Sunday closing laws affected the way Americans perceive Sunday today? And what are the prospects for new Sunday closing laws?

Eris Evolution has appealed, and by the time you read this, the Second Circuit may have weighed in. Meanwhile, listen to our podcast–and Happy New Year!