indoor dining

Murphy Unveils Indoor Dining Guidelines: Here's What You Need to Know

Indoor dining will be capped at 25 percent capacity. Restaurants will also have to adhere to other strict guidelines and rules, the state said

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What to Know

  • Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that restaurants in New Jersey can offer indoor dining starting Friday -- albeit with limited capacity and strict requirements -- just in time for the long holiday weekend and a little over two months since the state put its initial indoor dining plans for restaurants on hold.
  • As with the reopening of gyms there is a long list of required steps as well as additional recommendations.
  • The requirements outlined during Monday's briefing "are just the topline requirements of what is an exhaustive list," according to the governor.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that restaurants in New Jersey can offer indoor dining starting Friday -- albeit with limited capacity and strict requirements -- just in time for the long holiday weekend and a little over two months since the state put its initial indoor dining plans for restaurants on hold.

Earlier this summer, Murphy was initially set to announce that he wanted to see more enforcement of social distancing at bars, especially along the Jersey Shore, given the videos that surfaced on social media showing mostly younger people neglecting to wear masks or take other precautions while out. But after seeing the incredible spike in coronavirus cases in states in the south and west, he made the unexpected decision late June to halt what was supposed to be the next step in the state's reopening plans.

"The carelessness of one establishment can completely undo the good work of many others. We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants, and frankly patrons, who think the rules don't apply to them," Murphy said at that time. "I don't think it's a matter of days, it's a matter of weeks. And again, we have enormous sympathy (for restaurant owners), but the alternative here is worse and unacceptable."

However, months later, news finally came that restaurants would be allowed to reopen just in time for Labor Day weekend, however, with strict requirements and limits on capacity that the state looks to reinforce.

"This resumption of indoor dining will come with strong limits on capacities as well as other requirements, which will be strictly enforced," Murphy said during his coronavirus press briefing. "As we all know this pandemic isn’t over yet and our goal is to ensure that this step is done properly to prevent the kinds of spikes we saw in other states that allowed their restaurants to reopen too fully and too quickly -- steps which required us to hit the pause button on our earlier plan to allow indoor dining to resume."

Restaurants must comply with the following protocols:

  • No more than 25 percent capacity; parties capped at eight;
  • Maintain six feet distance between tables;
  • Staff must wear masks at all times;
  • Diners must wear masks when they are not in their seats;
  • Food and beverages can only be consumed while seated
  • Any customer who refuses to wear a mask, except for legitimate medical reasons, cannot be seated indoors;
  • If you are dining at a restaurant that provides table service, you will only be able to order your food while seated at your table. “Walking around with a drink indoors will not be tolerated,” Murphy said. In other words, a customer cannot go to the bar to get another drink or place an order, but rather they "must allow your server to place and deliver those orders;"
  • Restaurants that provide food service at the bar may allow dining while maintaining social distancing.

As with the reopening of gyms scheduled for September, that was previously announced, there is a long list of required steps as well as additional recommendations.

"One of the major trouble spots for us to take this step was ensuring proper ventilation and as with gyms we are mandating strict ventilation requirements," Murphy went on to say. "First, windows must be open to ensure proper flow of fresh air into the dining areas. Additionally, air conditioning units must be turned for outdoor air to flow into dining areas. And that the amount of air being recirculated is set to its lowest possible setting."

The requirements outlined during Monday's briefing "are just the topline requirements of what is an exhaustive list," according to the governor.

Our goal is to ensure that this step is done properly to prevent the kinds of spikes we saw in other states that allowed their restaurants to reopen too fully and too quickly.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey was particularly hard hit by COVID-19 early in the outbreak, but has seen deaths, cases and hospitalizations level off in the past few months. Murphy and state health officials have continued to reiterated wearing masks and keeping at least 6 feet apart when in public to slow the spread of the virus. He also said do as many things outside as possible -- a reason why outdoor dining was instituted across the state as a means to provide some financial relief to certain restaurants. The governor noted Monday that although limited indoor dining will resume by the end of the week, outdoor dining will still continue.

"We have been working hard for several months now to get to this point and after the pullback from our initial early July target date we committed that we would not put ourselves in a similar position again and that we would not allow for indoor dining to resume until we had confidence that we would move forward," Murphy said. "I am proud that we are doing this today so that our restaurants can welcome patrons to their dining rooms for the long holiday weekend."

"This was simply a matter of when and never a matter of if."

The Jersey City restaurant and bar faces losing its liquor license after video showed no social distancing or masks being used. NBC New York's Brian Thompson reports.
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