outdoor dining

After announcing that restaurants can open for in-person outdoor dining beginning on June 15th, Governor Murphy is now sharing the rules that must be followed. Yesterday he signed an executive order that outlines all the new restrictions in place. Here’s what you need to know before you go:

Restaurants will have limited seating, with party maximums of 8. That means no groups larger than eight will be allowed. All tables must be set up at least six feet between parties, and tables and chairs that are too close must be removed or taped off. 

If people are in a waiting area, the area must have markings for people to stand at a social distance. And, if there isn’t a proper waiting area with enough space to socially distance, patrons are advised to wait in their cars until their table is ready. The executive order encourages restaurants to use text messages instead of pagers to limit touching and cross-contamination between customers. 

Restaurants need to put in signs and markers for patrons to properly stand spaced apart in line to use the restroom. If customers are going inside to use the restrooms, a face covering is mandatory.  Restaurants will decline entry to the indoor portion of the restaurant if you aren’t wearing a face mask (except for children under the age of 2 or those with medical reasons). 

Reservations are encouraged so the staff can properly space customers to avoid crowds. All customers making a reservation are required to give a phone number in case there is a need for contact tracing. This is done so that if another customer or employee at the restaurant gets sick with COVID-19, they can reach you to let you know you’ve been exposed.

No buffets, salad bars or self-service drink stations will be allowed, and the staff will have to disinfect all tables, chairs and other shared items after each use. The order encourages the use of digital menus, if possible. 

Restaurants have to provide a hand sanitizing station for their customers. 

If there’s inclement weather, the restaurant will not be able to serve in-person patrons and will only be able to do curbside or takeout. 

In his press conference on Wednesday, Murphy did acknowledge that restaurants may not have a lot of existing outdoor space. He gave municipalities the ability to extend the spaces into parking lots or sidewalks as long as it is safe at their discretion. This also applies to extending liquor licenses to cover these new outdoor seating arrangements. Restaurants and bars will have to work with their local municipalities and the state division of alcohol and beverage control to obtain proper permitting and approvals before serving food or beverages in these new spaces. 

While details are still being worked out, and approvals are pending, towns like Ridgewood. Red Bank and Hoboken all have plans in the works to close down several streets to traffic, create pedestrian malls and have additional parking available elsewhere.

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