Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi Offers COVID-19 Street Fair Rules

A North Jersey lawmaker is looking to make sure street fairs flourish this summer.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi introduced a bill allowing municipalities to establish a street fair model for local businesses to sell goods, food and beverages while maintaining current coronavirus health guidelines.

Schepisi (R-Bergen) says fairs would help small businesses—such as retailers, restaurants and bars—to reopen selling goods, food and drinks in a safer outdoor setting during the summer months.

Helping Main Street

“Our local businesses need to reopen and they know that they can do it safely and effectively,” said Schepisi in a press release. “It’s far past time to help small businesses which have been shuttered for too long. We must reopen and revive our local Main Streets.”

Schepisi’s bipartisan bill would permit municipalities to designate certain days each week, from Thursday through Sunday, during which municipal and county streets in the business district could be closed to vehicular traffic and opened to allow restaurants, bars, and retail businesses to sell their products on the sidewalks and streets.

The bill was written in consultation with business owners, mayors and local chambers of commerce. 

Murphy Weighs In

“Holly has always been a strong supporter of our local business community and we thank her for remembering our important role in this community,” said Craig Kunisch, an executive board member of New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association and owner of Mahwah Bar and Grill. “I urge the Legislature to pass her bill and give our local businesses a fighting chance to beat not only this virus, but the threat we face every day from the shutdown.”

When asked about street fairs at a recent daily briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy said he supported the idea in theory but noted the outdoor limit of gatherings at 25 persons who are properly socially distancing is still in effect.

“So theoretically, you can have a street fair, I suppose, but that’s the limit for the time being,” said Murphy. “I would hope, as I alluded to the other day when we talked about graduations being allowed to take place that number goes up, as long as … the metrics are going in the right direction.”

Outside Consumption

Schepisi’s proposal would require the director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to extend indoor retail consumption licenses to allow sales in outdoor places. The special ruling would establish outdoor customer seating requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which must be followed by the licensees.

“My legislation would also ensure that appropriate social distancing protocols and the use of personal protective equipment by members of the public and employees of participating businesses are required and enforced,” said Schepisi. “For this to work best, it has to be done safely and responsibly to reassure patrons and employees that it is safe to work and shop.”

Other safeguards provided include that towns have alternative traffic options that will not force larger vehicles onto residential streets, as well as protections for pedestrians and those using public routes for non-retail efforts.

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