Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement that restaurants can officially open for limited indoor dining today has been met with mixed reactions from area owners and managers.
“People have wanted this for a long time and I think the restaurant association and the restaurant owners in the state of New Jersey are not happy with the governor,” Mark Bernard, general manager at Charlie’s of Bay Head, told The Ocean Star.
“We were the last state in the country to open for indoor dining. He wants to keep his constituents safe … but it is a long time coming and hopefully it will help our industry, which has been devastated. Hopefully, this helps a little bit to bring it back.”
On Aug. 31, Gov. Murphy announced indoor dining would be allowed to resume Friday, Sept. 4. The decision came a little over two months after he postponed the reopening of indoor seating at restaurants and bars beginning the Fourth of July weekend following surging COVID-19 cases in Sunbelt states that already opened indoor dining, as well as “knucklehead” behavior seen at the Jersey Shore.
“I’m proud that our restaurants will be able to return to some level of indoor service for the Labor Day weekend,” Gov. Murphy said during his daily briefing Monday. “We have been working hard for several months now to get to this point.”
Under the state Department of Health’s Health and Safety Standards, restaurants offering inside service must adhere to various protocols including limiting the number of patrons in indoor areas to 25 percent capacity and limiting seating to a maximum of eight customers per table, unless they are from a family from the same household.
In addition to restaurants arranging seating to achieve a minimum distance of six feet between parties, patrons will be required to wear face coverings while inside the indoor premises of the establishment, except when eating or drinking at their table.
“We’re all trying to do our best to get back to normal,” said Frank Gullace Jr., of The Shore House Bar and Grill in Point Pleasant. “I really feel very happy for the establishments that weren’t able to do outdoor seating that they are able to get back inside and start making a living again, because it has been a long [couple] months and this is going to stimulate a lot of business back in New Jersey and hopefully get the restaurant industry back on its feet and prosper into the future.”
“We renovated the inside completely when we got shut down, so we have been sitting here for a few months with a newly renovated place that we couldn’t use, so we’re excited to show off what we did,” Mr. Gullace added.
“We are following all the guidelines that were put forth, so we have tables all six feet apart inside,” he said. “We’re going to be doing indoor reservations at night time from 6 o’clock on. The way we are doing it is we will be giving hour-and-a-half time blocks for seating with a 15 minute buffer in between the two reservations so we can sanitize and clean the area and prepare for the next person. That way, we can control the amount of people and make sure we are sticking to the 25 percent or under limitations we have right now.”
Jim Scarponi, of Half Moon Point in Point Pleasant, was also excited to welcome guests back inside the establishment once again.
“We’re pretty much ready to go and have our COVID policies in place and the spacing between tables and whatnot,” he said. “Being at 25 percent occupancy, we are just going to be keeping tables in place and just kind of putting separators between the tables to mark which ones we’re not seating at and such. We have a lot of sanitizing stations in the restaurant and a lot of signage reminding about the social distancing.
“Overall, I think it is definitely long overdue. We have been in a position to open at a limited occupancy for a little while now, not necessarily back to normal business, but opening at some level inside. I think the guests are ready and I know some people are going to have apprehension, but I think overall it is going to be well received.”
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