New Jersey restaurant indoor capacity expands to 50%, but some say it’s not enough
Restaurants across New Jersey are now allowed to have 50% indoor capacity seating. But for many restaurants, the outdoor dining setups are not going anywhere any time soon.
The Asbury Ale House in Asbury Park is the gold standard in town when it comes to a restaurant taking full advantage of its outdoor seating. But with temperatures at 39 degrees Friday night, the increase in indoor seating is a big help.
A few blocks away at Langosta Lounge, the restaurant is embracing its 50% rule. But the owners will only add one or two more tables because of the 6-foot social distancing rule.
“If we could get to 3 feet, I think a lot of people will benefit from not only the increase in capacity, but the shrinkage of the distance,” says owner Marilyn Schlossbach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending 3 feet for social distancing, but the state needs to give the OK.
Schlossbach says their biggest loss has been the bar scene, and this won't change as the state still says bar seating is not allowed.
“But we are not doing the three-deep at the bar, nights when the place is really jumping,” she says.
The change in guidelines is happening primarily because 3.2 million people in New Jersey have received their COVID-19 vaccination. And this is providing some people with the confidence to go out in public again.
“I miss it. I miss a lot, I’m not going to lie,” says Carmine Catalano. “Of course, you’re worried. You want to be sure you’re safe and everyone is being safe.”
But others haven't been holding back. Some say the reigns of New Jersey businesses are still being held too tight by the state.
"I have an issue with not dining indoors. That's what I have an issue with. I think it's ridiculous,” says Toms Bruno.
Some restaurants owners also say that one of their biggest problems is hiring. The pandemic was a financial killer and a lot of people have left the restaurant industry. And now with the stimulus and unemployment, it might be favorable for some not to return at all.