Despite neighboring states moving ahead with plans to close or limit indoor dining as COVID-19 cases rise, Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated New Jersey’s restrictions will remain unchanged.
“We are staying with what we got,” said Murphy at a press briefing Dec. 11. “I’m comfortable where we are.”
The question arose as New York and Pennsylvania recently placed greater restrictions on indoor dining in their states. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the temporary closure of all indoor dining, casinos, theaters, museums and gyms starting Dec. 12, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned all indoor dining in New York City beginning Dec. 14.
Indoor dining in New Jersey is subject to 25% capacity limits, the elimination of bar service and must close by 10:00 p.m., part of what Murphy considered a surgical response to the coronavirus second wave the Garden State is facing.
Murphy noted the neighboring states’ dramatic steps were due to the higher capacity limits.
“A lot of these states that have made a big deal about pauses, they have come down either to where we were already, or took a two-week pause and brought indoor dining down to 33%,” said the governor. “That was a risk that we went into with our eyes open on the Friday before Labor Day and that remains a risk.”
Crossing the River
State officials said they would pay close attention to see if there is an increase of out-of-state residents coming to New Jersey to dine out.
“(That does) raise the potential for unintended consequences, (that) people all of a sudden start coming across the Hudson or the Delaware,” said Murphy. “We’ve just got to watch that very closely. That was a big, big risk in the Spring when we were shutting down and nobody knew how deep the abyss was or what tomorrow is going to look like. I think it’s less of an issue in our anecdotal surveys.“
The question about dining was raised the same day New Jersey’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced formal action against 10 bars and restaurants found in violation of public health orders, including four in North Jersey.
The charges brought seek suspensions of liquor licenses for anywhere between 10 all the way up to 115 days. In North Jersey, The Wicked Wolf in Hoboken received a 10-day suspension, Eddie’s Bar and Liquors in Bayonne a 15-day suspension, Riley’s Bar and Grill in Kearny a 30-day suspension and Greystone Inn in Little Falls a 40-day suspension. B&B Saloon in Atlantic City received the longest one, a 115 day suspension of its liquor license
The governor said publicly naming the suspensions at his press briefing was to show those flaunting the executives orders “will pay a price.”
“Let these charges send a perfectly clear signal to any bar or restaurant owner who thinks that the rules don’t apply to them. This will happen to you,” said Murphy. “There are countless restaurant owners and managers doing the absolute heroic right things each and every day, to help us.”
“We will not tolerate knucklehead behavior and we will not hesitate to shut you down,” he warned.