Restaurant owners urge Murphy to increase indoor capacity as weather starts to change
It was a wet and soggy Friday, which meant that outdoor dining was not possible for many restaurants in New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy hinted on Thursday that indoor dining capacity limits could be increased soon. But until that happens, restaurants are left wondering how they're supposed to drum up business during bad weather.
“Right now, we live and die by the weather,” says PJW Restaurant Group director of operations Michael Perro.
Restaurants in New Jersey are currently only allowed to have 25% capacity indoors. But Murphy said that this may change after there have been no indications that COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring as a result of indoor dining.
“We think that responsibly, unless the roof falls in over the next number of days, we’re going to be able to get a broader capacity there,” Murphy said.
But the governor has offered no date as to when this will happen, leaving many restaurant owners frustrated. Many say that 25% is just not enough to survive and that 50% would be better.
“Fifty percent kind of gets us to pay the bills. Anything less is an issue,” Perro says.
Perro says that what he would really like to see is the capacity limit go away entirely.
“If you keep all of the guests 6 feet apart, does it really matter what the occupancy is? I don’t know if it really does, whether it’s 25% or 50% or 100%, we’re still going to socially distance,” he says.
Perro say that he hopes that Murphy sees the restaurants and patrons that follow the rules, instead of calling out the so-called “knuckleheads” that he has in the past.
"And 95% of us really are concerned about our customers' well-being and more so about our staff’s well-being,” Perro says. “So, in that respect, we're frustrated because we do care and I think if there's more people out here seeing what we do and how we handle things the more you see that the restaurant industry has their act together."
Murphy also indicated that there does not seem to be a link between COVID-19 outbreaks and indoor gyms or indoor entertainment, either.