TRENTON, NJ — Garden State eateries hurting because of COVID-19 will get further relief when the state will begin to allow outdoor dining on Monday, June 15. Gov. Phil Murphy, announced Executive Order 150 on Wednesday, June 3, and said he has a reservation for June 15, although he didn’t say where.
“I hope folks with some confidence feel they can get out door and partake and help out our restaurants,” the governor said.
In Scotch Plains and Fanwood, restaurateurs who previously had outdoor dining won’t have to change much, while other restaurants are looking to expand outside.
“We are looking forward to setting up our outside tables and are opening up the enclosed side patio to make it an outside patio,” said Joe Mortarulo, who owns Darby Road in downtown Scotch Plains.
Mortarulo has been speaking with the town about possibly adding an outdoor tent in the parking lot to expand his outdoor seating capacity. He also looks forward too serving patrons outside at Houdini Pizza Laboratory in Fanwood.
Sean Flannery plans to use the tables he has set up outside Sheelan’s Crossing Pub & Bistro and will expand his outdoor capabilities in the back. He will be allowed to serve drinks as well as food. At his other business, Sheelan’s Fish Market, he will again set up tables on the side of the building for outdoor dining.
Fabio’s Pizza on South Ave. will utilize its outside front seating and side patio.
Grillestone on Route 22 will operate its outdoor patio, as will the Stage House Tavern.
It won’t be business as usual, however. Restaurants and bars will be required to place tables 6 feet apart and follow safety and sanitization protocols. To further ease the transition for business owners, per municipal approval, establishments will be allowed to “expand their footprint” to sidewalks, streets and parks. Additionally, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control will make available a one-time permit to expand premises of services that will be in effect until at least mid-November.
“Restaurants and bars throughout New Jersey have been immensely cooperative with necessary public health measures that were placed upon them while battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Murphy. “Allowing outdoor dining and the expansion of alcohol-serving areas will allow restaurants and bars to begin welcoming customers back while continuing to comply with necessary social distancing guidance.”
For some restaurants, the outdoor seating does little to help their situation. Scotchwood Diner on Route 22 considered opening outdoor dining, but the diner’s location on Route 22 does not lend itself to a quiet outdoor dining experience. For now, they will continue to rely on takeout and delivery service until the state opens up more fully.
The following NJ Health Department guidelines must be maintained.
- Employers should provide training in hand-washing, cleaning/disinfection, social distancing, use of face coverings, and monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 among employees, food/beverage establishments should immediately notify and cooperate with local health departments on next steps, while maintaining confidentiality;
- Obtain all required municipal approvals and permits before offering food and/or beverage consumption at outdoor areas;
- Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 should enter the food or beverage establishment;
- Limit seating to a maximum of eight (8) customers per table and arrange seating to achieve a minimum distance of six feet (6 ft) between parties;
- Rope off or otherwise mark tables, chairs and bar stools that are not to be used;
- Demarcate 6 feet of spacing in patron waiting areas;
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors, sidewalks, and signage on walls to ensure that customers remain at least 6 ft apart in line for the restroom or waiting for seating;
- Eliminate self-service food or drink options such as buffets, salad bars, and self-service drink stations;
- Disinfect all tables, chairs and any other shared items (menus, condiments, pens) after each use;
- Install physical barriers and partitions at cash registers, bars, host stands and other area where maintaining physical distance of 6 ft is difficult;
- Ensure 6 ft of physical distancing between workers and customers, except at the moment of payment and/or when employees are servicing the table;
- Require infection control practices, such as regular handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal;
- Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like credit card machines, keypads, and counters to which the public and workers have access;
- Place conspicuous signage at entrance alerting staff and customers to the required 6 ft of physical distance; and
- Require all food or beverage establishments to have an inclement weather policy that, if triggered, would require the establishment to offer takeout or delivery service only.
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