Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) that would establish clear requirements for the restaurant industry amid the coronavirus pandemic was passed by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
While applauding the New Jersey restaurant industry for adhering to safety measures while navigating the pandemic, Bucco noted many of requirements were established at the county and municipal level, which could vary.
“My legislation will provide clear and practical requirements for these businesses, which will be applied universally across New Jersey, so that they can recover and reopen as quickly as possible,” he said.
The committee passage came on May 6, the day before a number of coronavirus restrictions were set to ease that includes giving restaurant businesses more flexibility, with the indoor bar seating ban and the prohibition of self-service food set removed.
Standardized, Data-Backed Restriction System
Under Bucco’s legislation, indoor capacity would be expanded for banquet and wedding venues along with restaurants and bars under certain circumstances during the pandemic.
The law would allow for dining establishments to provide indoor at full capacity provided they coronavirus activity was low in the region and followed a number of requirements, including requiring masks for all employees who are in direct contact with patrons, installing barriers between tables, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and conducting contact tracing if a dine-in customer tests positive for COVID-19.
“After enduring so much hardship, the return of indoor dining has the potential to rescue so many of our struggling establishments,” added Bucco. “Using the clear and concise guidelines in my bill, I’m confident we can fully reopen these establishments safely and efficiently.”
Legislation for Tent, Heater Use
A companion bill sponsored by Bucco designed to make it easier for food establishments to use heaters and tents during the pandemic was advanced by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
“My legislation will establish statewide standards that will make it much easier, and far less complex, for our small business owners to facilitate outdoor dining,” said the Morris County lawmaker.
Standards for tents and heaters include:
- A tent shall be constructed of fire-retardant material;
- No cooking or warming of food shall be performed under a tent;
- At least one fire extinguisher shall be present inside the tent;
- All heating units shall be placed on a stable base; and
- An enclosed tent with heating devices inside shall have prominently marked entrances and exits.
“Individuals in the restaurant industry deserve to have clear, concise guidance for tents and heaters,” added Bucco. “And although it is currently spring in New Jersey, this legislation will help us prepare for the future should we ever have another public health emergency.”