What will indoor dining in NJ look like when Gov. Phil Murphy gives the OK to reopen?
Phil Murphy gave the state a glimpse of what indoor dining could look like when it reopens at Monday's press briefing.
When asked when indoor dining would open, Murphy responded, “I hope sooner than later... I know there’s an enormous amount of thirst for it.”
Murphy went on to say that when indoor dining is permitted, he expects bar areas to still be closed down. Instead of congregating at a bar, customers will likely order alcoholic beverages from their spaced-out tables and have wait staff deliver the drinks.
We can also expect, based on regulations provided by the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, tables spaced 6-feet apart, cleanings in between every seating, employees wearing masks and hand sanitizing stations. Condiments and spices will be given out individually, instead of presented in communal bottles. Guests will also be required to wear masks any time they are not seated at their table.
But again, Murphy gave no specific date or guidelines for reopening at the briefing.
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Restaurant owners were initially told they could open their dining rooms at 25% capacity on July 2. Indoor dining has been prohibited since mid-March, though outdoor dining has been allowed since June 15.
On June 29, three days before indoor dining was set to open, Murphy announced indoor dining would be postponed indefinitely. He cited overcrowding at outdoor dining areas and patrons not wearing masks as the reasons for the false start.
The news devastated many restaurants that had already spent money on food, personal protective equipment, plexiglass barriers and cleaning supplies in preparation for their reopenings.
A bill sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senators Vin Gopal and Anthony Bucco has been introduced that, if passed, would reimburse bars and catering companies for the money they spent gearing up for indoor dining.
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When asked at the briefing why, with every COVID-19 metric lower now than it was on July 2 except for rate of transmission, Murphy was not comfortable reopening indoor dining, the governor replied, “That is a little bit akin to asking Mrs. Lincoln, ‘Other than that, how was the show?’”
The climbing rate of transmission is too worrying to allow indoor dining, Murphy said. He pointed to anecdotal evidence in other states that allowed indoor dining only to have to shut it down a few days later. In Pennsylvania, for example, the reopening of indoor dining in some western counties had to be halted due to health concerns.
The risk of transmission at indoor gatherings, Murphy said, is too high, based on information gleaned from other states.
For now, restaurants and diners will have to continue to dine al fresco, which Murphy noted was “going great.”