As business recovery takes center stage during the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers are questioning both the state’s approach and current restrictions: Why should there be a one-size-fits-all approach? And why should a restaurant have to stress when the Super Bowl will end?
Legislators hope to spur action that would be in the best interest of small businesses just trying to hang on as the pandemic enters its 11th month.
Seeking to provide county officials the opportunity to manage the reopening process, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced legislation to establish a county-based mitigation plan to allow businesses to operate during a pandemic.
Legislators feel regions with fewer COVID-19 cases should not be forced to abide by the same restrictions as other areas that are experiencing a spike in cases. While the state has used a regional approach in how hospitals and schools operate, Gov. Phil Murphy has resisted repeated calls to go a regional opening approach, preferring a statewide system.
“Our goal is that by enacting this bill, New Jersey counties can regain autonomy in making decisions that best benefit their community,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“While New Jersey has been hit hard by the pandemic, each part of the state has been affected differently and at different times,” said State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11). “By giving control to our county leaders, New Jersey counties can implement plans that are best suited for them at any given time.”
The Gopal-Sweeney sponsored bill calls for the development of a color categorized (Red, Yellow, Green) mitigation plan to allow businesses to operate during a pandemic that is affecting the state.
The risk of the disease spreading within the State would be categorized by color, establishing appropriate thresholds for reaching each category.
- Red, which indicates that there is an active outbreak and is the highest level of risk;
- Yellow, which indicates that the risk of an outbreak is moderate; and
- Green, which indicates that the risk of an outbreak is low.
“By implementing a color-coded reopening system for New Jersey based on local conditions and data, we will be able to effectively keep the economy open in correlation to how the virus is spreading in a specific area,” said Sweeney.
Curfew Hinders Restaurant Sales
The system is one that restaurant associations have pushed for during the pandemic. While New Jersey did not curtail indoor dining as other neighboring states recently did, a curfew remains in place.
With two big holidays coming up next month, legislators are calling on Murphy to remove the curfew. Current law requires that all indoor bars and restaurants close at 10 p.m.
According to State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25), restaurants and bars have already missed out on the ability to capitalize on dozens of holidays and sporting events since the pandemic started last March. Relaxing the curfew for Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day would be very beneficial to these establishments.
Game’s Not Over? Still Got to Go!
“Many of our bars and restaurants can’t afford to stay in business if they’re deprived of the opportunity to serve customers for another major event,” said Bucco (R-25).
Sports Illustrated reports that the average Super Bowl has lasted three hours and thirty-nine minutes. With a 6:30 pm kick-off, that would put the game ending after 10 p.m.—forcing establishments to send patrons home in the middle of the fourth quarter.
“Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most important days of the year for bars and restaurants and all of their workers,” said Bucco. “Gov. Murphy should do the right thing and give them a reprieve from the arbitrary 10 p.m. closing time for this important event.”