The State Senate unanimously passed a bill June 15 geared towards helping hospitality businesses recover from the COVID -19 shutdown.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), co-sponsors of the bill, stated the legislation will remove red tape that requires fees and permits in order for restaurants, bars and breweries to access outdoor space.
As of June 15, restaurants and bars in New Jersey were permitted to open for outdoor-only dining, but many lack immediate access to outdoor space.
“We’re trying to provide every means possible for restaurants, bars and breweries that would otherwise remain closed, to open and conduct business,” said Sarlo.
Fees, Permits Currently Required
The bill would eliminate fees and permit requirements, thus allowing restaurants, bars, breweries and caterers to make use of available outdoor dining space during the COVID-19 emergency. Many already own outdoor space, such as decks, patios, yards and parking lots, but current regulations require permits and planning/zoning board authorization.
“Restaurants, bars and caterers are economically vulnerable businesses that don’t have the financial reserves to survive an extended shutdown or dramatically reduced income,” said Sweeney. “We need to find ways for them to return to business and operate with the safety measures that will protect their workers and customers.”
Without outdoor space access, many will remain closed, or be restricted to only carryout and delivery services.
The bill will allow licensed establishments to extend their liquor licenses to outdoor spaces without having to make a separate application and pay an additional fee to the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which is required by the current executive order.
Under the legislation, local governing bodies can close off public streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. This offers restaurants, bars and breweries without access to outdoor space the ability to provide service in the public right of way.
“These businesses are important to local communities for the jobs they support, the economic activity they generate and the role they play in local business districts,” said Sarlo. “Many of them are family-owned businesses that are an integral part of their communities. We need to do what we can to keep them in business.”
Support for Caterers
Additionally, Sarlo called for discussion around dates for resuming indoor dining services, to allow for catering businesses to set reopening plans.
“Because catered events are planned in advance, they need to know when they can reopen,” he said.
A similar Assembly bill was approved by the that legislative branch’s State and Local Government Committee on June 17.