On the day increased indoor capacity went into effect across New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law legislation giving restaurant owners a roadmap on outdoor dining for the next two years.
The new law establishes the framework for municipalities to allow restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries to utilize outdoor spaces or public sidewalks as extensions of their business, many of which were forced by the coronavirus pandemic to adopt outdoor dining to their business model.
“As we weather the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continually trying to find new and innovative ways to aid our state’s business community while not sacrificing our public health,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in a Zoom bill signing ceremony Feb. 5.
Roadmap for Restaurants
“This bill will give our restaurants more certainty for the future so they can once again lean into the outdoor expansions we allowed this past Summer to help recoup losses and strengthen their businesses and the jobs they support,” added Murphy, who authorized outdoor dining expansion in June 2020.
The bill extends the effective period of permits issued under a New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) special ruling, allowing licensees to expand the premises where they can serve alcoholic beverages to include outdoor spaces. Restaurants will now be able to maintain the permit through Nov. 30, 2022, or the date at which indoor dining returns to full capacity at restaurants.
Murphy credited State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) as being a driving force in getting the legislation passed.
Bill Pushed by Sarlo
“This will allow for a measured expansion that will maintain the health and safety of workers and customers and allow the businesses to plan ahead with more certainty,” declared Sarlo. “They are key contributors to local communities throughout the state.”
The governor noted that sections of Red Bank, represented by State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11), had a carnival atmosphere with the outdoor dining space reserved in the town.
“This common-sense measure will bring immediate help to our restaurants, bars and breweries by streamlining application procedures in order to serve more patrons outdoors,” said Gopal. “After suffering so much loss in the past year due to the pandemic, this will greatly enhance prospects for these businesses, especially as we approach the coming season on the Jersey Shore.”
Additionally, the legislation authorizes the ABC to create a seasonal farm market permit to allow brewery, craft distillery, farm winery, and cidery license holders to sell their products in original containers at markets for off-premises consumption. The permit could be a daily or annual permit.
“This is timely, important and desperately needed by the restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries that are struggling to survive the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis,” said Sarlo. “The months ahead will be pivotal for their ability to stay in business, keep their employees on the payroll and contribute to the economic viability of the communities they serve.”
Murphy noted that this extension will be automatic for all permit holders and establishes protocols for municipalities to review and approve outdoor space expansion requests by restaurants without liquor licenses and those with liquor licenses that have not previously obtained expansion permits.
Step in the Right Direction
GOP sponsors of the bill, 24th Legislative District lawmakers State Sen. Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Parker Space and Hal Wirths welcomed a the new law, calling it a step in the right direction.
“This is finally a little bit of good news for businesses that have endured almost a full year of misery from the threat of the coronavirus and the oppressive lockdowns and restrictions intended to prevent its spread,” said Oroho. “In their struggle to survive, many of these small employers made significant investments to serve customers outdoors, and this new law will allow them to recover the money they spent and generate additional revenue.”
Industry Leaders Thankful
Wirths added “The bill was signed on the same day restrictions on indoor dining were eased, from 25 percent of capacity to 35 percent, and the 10 p.m. curfew on indoor dining was lifted. For entrepreneurs and employees who have paid an unimaginable toll over the past year, there is finally reason for optimism, and a chance to make money from the Super Bowl this weekend.”
Marilou Halvorsen, outgoing President and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the the appreciated the legislators and governor recognizing the importance of outdoor dining.
““As we move forward past the pandemic, this will allow our restaurants to continue to operate and offer more options for our guests,” said Halvorsen.
On Feb. 5, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 637,357 with 3,723 total new PCR cases reported. There were 712 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 75,967. The total number of individual cases for the state is 713,324. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 93 new deaths, bringing that total to 19,699. The state listed probable deaths at 2,187, bringing the overall total to 21,886. State officials noted 53 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 486 new confirmed cases and 59 probable cases, Essex 310 new cases and 37 probable cases, Hudson 322 new cases and six probable cases, Morris 203 new cases and and 49 probable cases, Passaic 378 new cases and 18 probable cases, Sussex 31 new cases and 27 probable cases, and Warren 31 cases and 36 probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,306, followed by Bergen at 2,231, Hudson with 1,715, Passaic at 1,451, Morris at 859, Sussex at 203 and Warren County at 185.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 273, Essex has 257, Morris at 216, Hudson has 173, Passaic at 163, Sussex has 57 and Warren has 16.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 1, was 6.8%; by region, the rate was 4.9% in the North, 7.7% in the Central region and 7.8% in the South. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 0.92 from 0.94 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 2,916 patients were hospitalized; 2,714 cases were confirmed and 202 are under investigation. By region, there were 1,330 hospitalized in the North, 906 in the Central and 589 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 506 are in intensive care units and 342 on ventilators. A total of 421 patients were discharged, while 377 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 61,778, followed by Middlesex at 61,269, Essex at 61,125, Hudson at 57,817, Passaic at 48,298, Ocean at 46,235, Monmouth at 45,720, Union at 45,280, Camden at 37,009, Burlington at 28,587, Morris at 28,511, Mercer at 24,139, Gloucester at 19,528, Atlantic at 17,775, Somerset at 16,745, Cumberland at 11,048, Sussex at 7,070, Warren at 5,655, Hunterdon at 5,487, Salem at 3,986, and Cape May at 3,293.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,269, followed by Union at 6,842, Ocean at 5,567, Essex at 5,378, Morris at 4,791, Hudson at 4,752, Monmouth at 4,594, Atlantic at 4,527, Middlesex at 4,347, Passaic at 4,124, Camden at 4,104, Burlington at 3,835, Somerset at 3,679, Cape May at 3,112, Gloucester at 2,861, Cumberland at 2,097, Mercer at 1,411, Sussex at 984, Warren at 647, Hunterdon at 565, and Salem 438.
Another 1,002 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions in the Garden State, a total of 137 outbreaks involving 655 cases, with six new outbreaks accounting for 58 cases were reported in the weekly update on Feb. 3.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 126 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 419 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,221 of the cases, broken down between 7,055 residents and 7,166 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,230 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 31,854 residents and 20,437 staff, for a total of 52,291 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,797 on Feb. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,713 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 925,579 as of Feb. 5. Of those who have received the vaccine, 745,552 residents have received their first dose with 179,956 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 49% are White, 19% unknown, 19% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 36% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 27% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 102,248 doses, Essex 72,856 doses, Hudson 42,439 doses, Morris 67,385 doses, Passaic 43,984 doses, Sussex 15,048 doses, and Warren 9,025 doses.