Bar seating ban to end May 7, restaurant capacity limits May 19

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TRENTON — New Jersey this month will end many COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, including the bar seating ban and all outdoor gathering and restaurant indoor capacity limits, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday. 

In addition to easing rules, the governor announced the launching of a get-vaccinated campaign that will include offering a free beer to any adult who gets their first shot in May.

“I’m moving up the effective date of the reopening steps we announced last Monday from May 10th to May 7th. We feel confident in moving up this timetable given the accelerated progress we’re seeing in our vaccination program, hospital metrics and daily case counts,” he said.

Those include increasing outdoor gathering limits to 500 persons; increasing indoor capacities to 50 percent to a maximum of 250 persons for private catered events such as political gatherings, weddings, funerals and performances; and the opening of dance floors at proms.

Starting May 7, the ban on indoor bar seating will be lifted, although social distancing must continue. Restaurants also will be allowed to resume offering buffets and self-serve operations.

“Will things be enforced? You betcha, particularly with congregating at bars. We don’t want people standing on top of each other,” the governor said. 

Then, starting May 19, all indoor capacity limits will be lifted at stores and restaurants, provided they keep a six-foot distance or barriers between groups.

The governor added, “We anticipate completely removing the limit on outdoor gatherings. All attendees or groups of attendees will be required to keep social distances of at least six feet. Current mask requirements will remain in place.” This includes such activities such as parades and fireworks displays.

The state also will end capacity limits on religious services, stores, gyms, personal care businesses, indoor and outdoor amusement parks, as long as those places can keep at least a six-foot distance between groups. Currently, capacity is limited to 50 percent.

The governor also announced the launching of the multifaceted “Operation Jersey Summer” campaign to ramp up the number of people getting vaccinated. 

That includes social media and television ads, walk-in appointments at mega-vaccination sites, as well as getting faith leaders involved in combating vaccination hesitancy.

Also, he said, “We’re putting an army of boots on the ground to safely knock on doors in communities throughout the state. They will work directly in underserved communities, reaching out to residents with information and resources necessary that will help them make the decision to be vaccinated.”

In addition, Gov. Murphy announced the new shot-and-a-beer initiative in which any New Jerseyan age 21 or over who gets their first vaccine dose in the month of May may take their vaccination card to receive a free beer at participating breweries, including the Bradley Beer Project in Bradley Beach, Little Dog Brewing in Neptune City and Battle River Brewing in Toms River. 

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