‘Murphy, you are not helping’: Indoor dining capacity will not be increasing this week, Gov. Murphy says
The past 24 hours have been a one-two punch for restaurant owners after Gov. Phil Murphy first said indoor dining capacity won't be increasing this week, and also vetoing a bill that would reimburse owners after backing off a decision to reopen indoor dining over the summer.
Only 20 customers are allowed inside at Shut up and Eat in Toms River following the 25% rule. Owner Ann Gauthier was hoping she could have 40 people, but that now will have to wait.
“Nobody's getting sick, nobody's dying in my restaurant,” says Gauthier. “We just want to go back to regular business and Murphy, you are not helping.”
An outspoken and emotional Gauthier reacted today following what she says are mixed messages coming from Gov. Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
"Why hasn't he talked to business owners?” says Gauthier. “Because he's afraid to come down, he's afraid to hear the truth, he's afraid to stand up to us. He just sits behind a desk and rattles off [stuff] that we don't want to hear."
Gauthier says there's no shortage of people who want to eat inside.
“When you hire people to cook inside and there's 10 people in your building and there's 20 people waiting outside to get in your building, whether the weather is nice or not, it's ridiculous,” says Gauthier.
Gauthier also hoped to recoup money for extra supplies purchased for the July 4 holiday. Back in late June and early July, Gauthier, and so many other restaurant owners, prepared for indoor dining, but the governor pulled back just 48 hours before the opening date. In addition, a long-term construction project had just finished, but not before causing traffic changes and reduced business at the shops along Route 166 going back a couple years. She now relies on what's left of her payroll protection program and her loyal customer base to stay afloat.
“I will stay here and I will open and I will do whatever I can to keep my employees satisfied,” says Gauthier. “I have 13 employees that have families. I worry about them.”
Experts from the Ocean County Health Department say they have also not seen any links to COVID-19 case spikes since indoor dining resumed weeks ago.