Gov. Murphy: New Jersey ending limit on outdoor gatherings, cap on indoor dining
New Jersey will lift all COVID-19 outdoor gathering limits and remove a 50% capacity limit on indoor restaurants and bars, as long as 6-foot distancing can be maintained, beginning on May 19.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced that change Monday. Murphy says the state’s positive coronavirus trends have enabled the state to make the change.
The next step in New Jersey's plans to reopen will come in two phases. The first takes effect Friday -- increasing outdoor gatherings to 500 people and indoor capacity going to 50%. That applies to catered events, weddings, funerals, political gatherings, and large venues.
The second part involves changes for businesses. Starting Friday, people can once again sit at a bar or order from a buffet. Bar-side seating and restaurants with self-service foods will be back.
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The capacity caps for businesses will be removed, for both indoor and outdoor. But the 6-foot rule between diners and groups of people must be followed.
This year has been difficult for business owners. Constantine Papanicolaou, the owner of the Metuchen Inn, says they’ve been able to stay afloat with PPP loans, and that they are looking forward to this next phase.
“We try not to politicize it,” says Papanicolaou. “We try not to look at people to blame. We try to survive with whatever we have. I’m in negative even though there was a loss of business and even though there were so many negatives, that positive thing is incredibly appreciated. We will do whatever it takes to make the customer feel comfortable. It is not about with the government allows us to do, it’s what the customer wants us to do to feel comfortable to come here, that we are safe place."
The changes mean summer events such as fireworks and parades can go forward. He added that social distancing must still be maintained.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio floated reopening the city fully on July 1. Murphy said pressure from leaders in other states played "zero" role in his decisions, but that New Jersey will continue to work in conjunction with tri-state neighbors.
AP wire services helped contribute to this report.