OLR Research Report

August 10, 2009




By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Analyst

You asked (1) for the legislative history of the ban on Sunday sales by package stores, (2) for a summary of Fair Cadillac-Oldsmobile v. Bailey concerning Sunday sales by car dealers, (3) if the ban on package store Sunday sales can be overturned by legislation, and (4) if there is any other retail segment that must close on Sunday.


The ban against Sunday liquor sales was part of the original Liquor Control Act passed in 1933 at the end of Prohibition.  There are no records concerning the legislative rationale behind the ban because neither the legislative proceedings nor the public hearings were transcribed.

The Connecticut Supreme Court struck down a statute requiring that motor vehicle dealerships be subject to a Sunday sale ban in 1994's Fair Cadillac-Isuzu. In that case, the Court found that the legislature's exclusive focus on motor vehicle dealerships suggested that the legislature had completely abandoned its objective of providing a common day of rest.

We were not able to identify other retail segments which must close on Sunday.


In Fair Cadillac-Oldsmobile Isuzu Partnership v. Bailey, 229 Conn. 312 (1994), the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a statute prohibiting the sale of motor vehicles on Sunday violated the right to substantive due process, even though the purpose of the law to provide a common day of rest for state citizens was a legitimate governmental interest.  In that case, the plaintiff motor vehicle dealerships sought a declaratory judgment to determine the constitutionality of a statute, CGS 53-301, which prohibited the sale of motor vehicles on Sunday. The Court stated that in applying the rational relationship test, it must examine the totality of the circumstances that bear on the statute's rationality. Ultimately, it concluded that the statute was arbitrary.  

Three aspects of the automobile sales statute warranted special emphasis, according to the Court.  First, the statute was penal and thus must be strictly construed.  Second, it regulated conduct that otherwise would be entirely legitimate, and thus must serve the public health, safety, convenience and welfare in a reasonable and impartial way.  Third, closing laws furthered an objective that was difficult to effectuate.

In Fair Cadillac-Isuzu, the Court found that the legislature's exclusive focus on motor vehicle dealerships suggested that the legislature had completely abandoned its objective of providing a common day of rest.

Caldor's, Inc. v. Bedding Barn, Inc.

In the Fair Cadillac-Isuzu decision, the Court cited Caldor's, Inc. v. Bedding Barn, Inc., 177 Conn. 304 (1979). In Caldor's, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared the law requiring retail stores to close on Sundays unconstitutional in Caldor's.  Sunday closing laws, known as blue laws, were first codified in Connecticut in 1650, and had been continually modified by the legislature.  The most recent modifications were made in 1978, just before the Court decided Caldor's. PA 78-329 exempted manufacturing from the Sunday closing law and allowed retail operations on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  At that point, the Court noted, the law, CGS 53-302a, exempted from its provisions: charitable, religious, and government workers; workers essential to the public safety and welfare; workers who sold designated items in designated businesses; and workers in any of 24 specific businesses, including all factory workers.

Any act regulating economic activity must bear a reasonable relationship to a proper legislative purpose.  Additionally, the act must accomplish its purpose in a way that is fair, rational, and does not discriminate (Carroll v. Schwartz, 127 Conn. 126 (1940)).  Applying these rules, the Court found that the law was meant to provide workers with a common day of rest, a legitimate exercise of the legislature's power to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare.  But the Court ruled that the exemptions to the law were so arbitrary and unreasonable that the law did not achieve its purpose.  For example, the Court found the law allowed the sale of some food items by small groceries and drug stores but not by supermarkets, and the sale of car repair parts by those in the repair business, but not by hardware stores.  Accordingly, the Court found that CGS 53-302a failed the “rational connection test” because the exemptions were arbitrary, discriminatory and unreasonable, and did not comply with constitutional equal protection and due process requirements.


The United States Supreme Court has held that Sunday closing laws, in their objectives, fall within the general legislative power to determine what is reasonably required to promote public health, safety, and welfare (McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-445 (1961)). The Connecticut Supreme Court has also held that the decision as to whether the public welfare is best served by establishing a common day of rest and recreation is, ultimately, left to the legislature (State v. Shuster, 145 Conn. 554, 557-58 (1958)). The legislature could address the ban on Sunday liquor sales by amending the statutes, (CGS 30-91).