Gov. Murphy expands New Jersey indoor dining capacity to 35% starting Friday

The first expansion of indoor dining in New Jersey in five months will be coming on Friday.
After a spring and summer of no indoor dining, and five months of indoor dining at only 25% capacity, Gov. Phil Murphy said that he has given the OK to increase indoor dining capacity to 35%.
“We believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue or further stress on our health care system,” Murphy said Wednesday at his COVID-19 briefing.
The new rules will take effect Friday morning, just in time for the Super Bowl. Bars and restaurants can now also stay open past 10 p.m. Local municipalities can set their own limits after 8 p.m. Seating around bars will remain prohibited.
“The prohibition on seating at indoor bar areas will remain in effect, as it creates a danger of close and prolonged proximity between patrons, bartenders and servers,” Murphy said.
The governor said that a low rate of virus transmission and decreasing hospitalizations have allowed him to make the change. For example, in mid-January there were over 3,600 COVID hospitalizations.
“Today, three weeks later, we’re reporting a decrease of about 20% from that number,” Murphy said.
But the governor would not lay out benchmarks for more reopening expansions.
“I just can’t tell you if that particular move triggers that. I used the 20% comparison today just to put a fine point on the fact that the numbers are going in the right direction,” he said. “The positivity is higher than we like, without question.”
State health officials say that they want New Jersey residents gathering for the Super Bowl to make sure not to turn celebrations into super-spreader events.
“Please do that responsibly. We haven’t said that enough…this is not the year to let it rip. I ask everyone to be responsible,” Murphy said.
New Jersey kept indoor dining at 25% capacity into 2021 during the time indoor dining in New York City was shut down. New York City restaurants are reopening indoor dining at 25% on Feb. 14.