‘It means next to nothing’: Restaurant owners say reopening plan doesn’t go far enough

Some bar and restaurant owners say that Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening announcement does not go far enough to allow them to recoup some of the business they lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor on Monday announced a series of reopening strategies for New Jersey. Starting on May 19, outdoor limits on social gatherings will be lifted, and bars and restaurants will no longer have capacity limits as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
But bar and restaurant owners say that the social distancing restrictions will still negatively impact their bottom line.
“It means next to nothing to us. Nothing,” says Chris Kounisch of Allendale Bar & Grill. “Right now at 50%, perfectly blunt and honest, we can’t really add more tables because we’re maxed out.”
But others say that the governor’s announcement is welcomed news as New Jersey recovers from the pandemic.
“I tell you, our businesses have been sitting on the sidelines ready to run for months,” says Michele Sierka of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
Sierka says that she is especially happy that the ban on bar seating will be lifted.
“Very excited about bar seating opening, because it made no sense. There is an automatic space between you and a bartender, which many times is more than you have at tables with servers,” she says.
Murphy did say that the state’s mask mandate will remain unchanged even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and President Joe Biden have said that people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks outdoors.
“It’s habit. I think I’m in the sort of ‘better safe than sorry' [category] but I do think about it,” he said.
The CDC is also considering lowering the social distancing requirement from 6 feet to 3 feet.