Indoor dining capacity boosted to 35% in NJ; bars and eateries can stay open past 10 p.m.

Indoor dining capacity in New Jersey has been increased to 35% under an order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The order also allows bars and restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m.
Some restaurant owners say that they hope that this is a step in the right direction to recover their businesses.
“I’m grateful because at least we can see some light at the end of the tunnel,” says Il Fiore owner Landi Daku.
Many restaurant owners say that they were hoping that inside capacity would have been increased to 50%. But they say that even bumping capacity up from 25% to 35% will make a difference.
“Many people say, ‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ But right now, even if I can put two more tables, it’s enough,” says Daku. “Even if I can fit six more people, for me, it’s enough. Anything helps.”
Mark Smith owns Tortilla Press and has restaurants in Collingswood and a cantina in Pennsauken. He says that the increase will help. But with a tiny restaurant, it will be difficult to fit in the extra tables.
“No matter what they make them, you still have to keep 6 feet distance. So, we have a little bit of space to expand, but unless they change the 6-foot distancing, you can’t get a whole lot more people in here,” he says.
The owners say that they are also happy with the removal of the 10 p.m. curfew.
“You don’t have to pressure the customers, which they don’t have to look at the time and, ‘Oh, it’s 10 p.m., so we better hurry up.’ Or ‘We don’t have time for dessert because its 10 p.m.’” says Daku.
But can restaurants continue to survive with the limited capacity?
“I don’t know. Maybe two or three months. But after that, we’ll really have to stretch the belt,” Daku says.
Murphy says that he increased the capacity because of decreased hospitalizations from the virus. But he did not indicate when he would increase capacity again.