After more than five months of being shut down for indoor dining due to the pandemic, restaurants can finally welcome diners inside on Friday, September 4, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Facebook this morning. Restaurant capacity will be limited to 25 percent and there must be social distancing between tables, Murphy said.
“Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against COVID-19,” he said. This is the second time Murphy has announced a return to indoor dining right before the start of a holiday weekend. This Friday marks the eve of Labor Day weekend. The first time, Murphy planned to allow indoor dining starting on July 2. But he changed his mind after a series of parties in New Jersey were broken up at the same time COVID cases began to spike in other states.
Here are the new rules for indoor dining:
–If you’re dining at a restaurant that provides table service, you will only be able to order while seated at your table.
–Only staff can bring you your food or beverage.
–If you’re seated at a table, you cannot go to the bar to get another drink or place an order for a dish.
–Restaurants that provide food service at their bars may allow patrons to dine at the bar provided that all diners are kept at proper social distances.
–Any group seated together at the bar is capped at four individuals.
Governor Murphy is also mandating strict ventilation requirements:
—Windows must be opened to ensure a proper flow of fresh air into the dining areas.
—Air conditioner units must be turned so that they’re allowing for the maximum amount of outdoor air to be introduced to the dining area.
“Our job now is to ensure that this reopening only leads to future announcements expanding the indoor capacity limits, and that we do not have to take a step backward,” Murphy said on his Facebook page. “Everyone must pull together.”
His announcement prompted more than 2,000 comments mixed with criticism and relief. Many said the decision came too late and asked how restaurants could survive on just 25 percent capacity. “Twenty-five percent isn’t viable for most businesses,” said one commenter. “Take a look at PA and what this 25 percent …is doing. Restaurants and bars are closing literally every day forever. It needs to be 50 percent minimum.”
“Too little to stay afloat for many,” another commenter said. “In a few weeks outdoors will get too chilly at night and 25 percent is too little for smaller places. As if the majority of us haven’t been eating regularly indoors in neighboring states and while on vacation.”
Others expressed relief that the decision had finally come, saying it’s about time and that it was long overdue. The decision to resume indoor dining comes as schools begin to reopen throughout the state this week. As of last week, there were 745 public school plans submitted, with 436 districts opting for a hybrid learning plan. There are 180 districts starting the year fully remote, 59 that are proposing a full-time, in-person scenario and 11 that have some mix of the above.
Will you be making an indoor dining reservation after it resumes? Let us know in the comments.