What to know as some COVID restrictions ease today in NJ

What to know as some COVID restrictions ease today in NJ

HOBOKEN, New Jersey (WABC) — The loosening of some of the restrictions in New Jersey has the Restaurant Association in New York calling for similar changes.

Starting at 8 a.m., indoor business capacity increased to 35% from 25%.

Also on Friday, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law legislation expanding outdoor dining, cutting the red tape to allow restaurants, bars, breweries and distilleries struggling amid the pandemic to serve patrons in parking lots, yards, patios, decks and public sidewalks.

Murphy said it is the next step in saving the restaurant industry, by allowing them to expand their outdoor dining in the spring and the summer.

“No industry has felt that pain more acutely than the restaurant industry. The steps we took last summer to expand outdoor dining, beginning on June 15, allowed many restaurants to remain whole. Many had good seasons because we allowed them to convert parking lots, rooftops, decks, sidewalks, you name it, into places to eat. In some places, streets. Those with liquor licenses could serve patrons in these spaces,” Murphy said. “Throughout the fall, relatively mild weather kept many of these outdoor dining areas busy. But as winter has now closed in, many of these restaurants are facing a dire season and a dire moment. So as of this morning, all of our restaurants can expand indoor dining to 35% capacity, up from 25%, which is know is welcome. But I also know without the added benefits of outdoor spaces, margins will remain, if positive at all, razor-thin. We must give our restaurants more certainty for the future that will allow those that make it through this winter to know they can again lead in the outdoor expansions we allowed last summer to recoup what was lost and to strengthen their businsses and the secure the jobs they support.

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The bill passed 34-0 in the Senate, 75-0 in the Assembly, and was signed by the governor.

Also, businesses are now allowed to stay open past 10 p.m., just in time for Super Bowl Sunday.

But, each city can decide if they want to leave restrictions in place.

The City of Newark is one of those places.

The Newark mayor announced Thursday that they will continue a 10 p.m. curfew for non-essential businesses on weekdays and an 11 p.m. curfew on the weekends.

For businesses, some say even small changes will make a difference.

“If we need to, we do form lines outside, obviously that’s harder in the winter months. So, 35% is really great,” said Director of Operations Alex Merlo.

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“We’ll take what we can get,” said co-owner Kaycee Zelkovsky. “And if we can do intermission and make a little bit of money on the alcohol sales and boost that a little bit, that’s huge for us.”

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