Remembering Blue Laws: A Barmaid’s Arrest

It’s Good Friday.

Other than knowing that it ushered in Easter when I attended sunrise sermons and brunches with friends, I hadn’t given much thought to the day.  (See Ash Wednesday post)

Until I worked as a reporter for The News-Times in Danbury, Connecticut.

I interviewed Kathleen Tenk, a barmaid who was arrested on Good Friday in 1981 after serving alcohol to patrons at the Countryside Inn in Newton, a favorite watering hole of residents and reporters. The police had responded to an anonymous phone call turning her in.

“If they had to have a national holiday for every religiouos holiday, we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone working,”  Tenk said. “You can’t run government with religion.”

At the time, Connecticut’s “Blue Laws” prohibited the sale of liquor on Good Friday, Election Day, and Sundays and Holiday Mondays.   These laws, dating from Colonial times, regulate behavior and business on the Sabbath. The prominence of Sunday shopping evolved from the repeal of Blue Laws and varies state by state. Connecticut and Indiana are the last states in the union to ban Sunday liquor sales.

Thankfully, to Tenk’s relief, Connecticut struck down its Good Friday rule shortly after her incident, making her arrest moot.  The state is still trying to repeal the Sunday and holiday restrictions, to keep residents from crossing  the state border to buy their holiday booze.

And that of course, isn’t without controversy. As much as we’re used to buying anything, anytime, there are many who cling to Sunday slowdowns.

We’re heading to Connecticut for Passover. No worries, we stocked up in New Jersey.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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10 Responses to Remembering Blue Laws: A Barmaid’s Arrest

  1. So funny. I grew up in Alabama and remember the crowded liquor store on Saturday near the hairdresser where I spent many a Saturday dreading getting my hair done. It seemed so archaic. So many good church people crowded in one spot to drink Saturday and not Sunday. We regularly wait until Sunday to get that bottle of wine for dinner. It is so nice to walk up to the Wine Shop. When we lived in Md. , we had to go to one county over to get wine on Sun. They did sell ii in the grocery store.
    Thankfully, we have changed. Have a wonderful holiday observance. Enjoy the family time.


  2. Leah says:

    Fascinating! I had no idea. Thanks for the bit of history.


  3. Patti Winker says:

    In Wisconsin we used to stop at the grocery store on Sunday mornings to fill the cooler with beer on the way to the softball game or boating or whatever.

    Then, we move to Florida. We were headed to the beach early one Sunday morning and stopped by the grocery store to get some beer for the cooler. Nope. Can’t sell beer before 1 p.m. But, we’ll be on the beach before 1 p.m. Nope. Huh?

    Why does the State of Florida care when I buy beer? These sorts of laws are archaic and ridiculous. Is the State trying to get me to see the error of my ways? Drinking before 1 p.m.?? I don’t even care that I wasn’t going to actually drink the beer that early in the morning… but even if I was, when did the State become my preacher? Oh, wait. That’s it. We are, after all, in the Bible Belt – ie the State IS our preacher. Gotcha.

    And, I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse…


  4. Lisa Tenk Beauregard says:

    Kathleen Tenk was my mother. She’s been dead 31 years now. What a surprise to see this article from just 4 years ago. She always stood up for what she believed in. I try to do the same. I hope she knows that.


  5. Wow. What a surprise. How did you find my blog and this post? Thanks for contacting me.


    • Lisa Tenk Beauregard says:

      Another interesting fact you may not have known was that at the time you interviewed her she had been fighting Breast Cancer for 11 years. Single mom of two young daughters with little or no help from their father. There was even a time she worked for one of her Oncologists during the day shifts in his office to off set the cost of her chemotherapy. She had been in and out of remission 3 times each time losing her hair. She fell walking into work one morning at that same bar 2 years later sustaining an injury that led to her coming out of remission for the last time. Thank you for this Blog.


  6. Lisa Tenk Beauregard says:

    Just couldn’t sleep last night and Googled her name. The power of the internet. I will be visiting tomorrow with my sister and my moms 2 surviving sisters. I’ll share this with them. They will be happy to be reminded that her spirit and life are remembered.


  7. Pingback: Blog Connections: The Power of Writing | cyclingrandma

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