Bars and nightclubs with liquor licenses in Jersey City have been hit with a precautionary curfew of 10 p.m. in an effort to reduce crowd turnout as a preventative measure to reduce public exposure to COVID-19, per an executive order issued by Mayor Steven Fulop on Thursday.
All establishments with a capacity of 25 people or more, including restaurants, places of worship and special event venues, must maintain a sign-in sheet of all individuals entering the establishment with information to be used solely for the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus by providing means of notification of potential exposure, if necessary.
At this time, Jersey City has no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“There is so much uncertainty around testing, who carries the virus, and how quickly it spreads so we want to be overly cautious until we have some answers,” said Fulop in a prepared statement. “The logic here is simple, if the conversation federally and at the state level is around closing schools, or what we would classify as controlled environments, in order to limit the spread of the virus, wouldn’t logic lead us to make sure we are also thinking about large uncontrolled environments until we have more answers? We want to take the necessary steps.”
A local bar owner who requested anonymity said he didn’t agree with the curfew, and that Jersey City’s loss was Hoboken or New York City’s gain.
“Everybody has to find ways to take responsibility for themselves. Shutting down this entire system is not a good thing especially for the restaurant industry, people have to pay rent. They have to let the market operate freely,” the owner said.
“The part that I’m upset about is that yeah, you wait to err on the side of caution, but at what cost? Constantly hammer into people to wash their hands and do what they need to do. Alcohol is like oil. You’re not going to drive your car less because its $6 a gallon as opposed to $2,” the owner said. “No matter what alcohol costs, people are going to travel to get it. We’re a 10 minute Uber from Hoboken. And being scared of outsiders coming in … more people go out to New York to drink, so you’re not really doing anything. It’s a long-term effect too. It’s an ‘oh, I like this spot better in Hoboken, I didn’t realize it was only 10 minutes away.’ Now you’re losing customers for good. People are going to go out anyway regardless of the rules, and now, you’re hurting businesses. They don’t think about that [when establishing this curfew].”
For many bars, he noted, this is the biggest weekend of the year. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, and some owners bought 300 pounds of corned beef for the patrons they expected.
“What are they supposed to do with that?” he said.
Regarding the curfew, Iron Monkey owner Stephen McIntyre said, “I guess people can only get coronavirus after 10 p.m. That’s absolutely ridiculous.”
There’s usually a large crowd at happy hour, which is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., McIntyre said. He expects this curfew to cut his business in half.
“Our employees, this is how they make a living. How are the employees going to pay their rent?” he said.
He noted most people pay with credit card, and can, therefore, be traced easily without the additional sign-in sheet.
Beyond bars and restaurants, Fulop’s executive order also addressed the city’s senior residents. All senior events are temporarily cancelled and Meals on Wheels is available to deliver meals to them and those who are self-quarantined.
“We’re thinking through all of these issues that most other municipalities aren’t faced with, such as our large uninsured population,” said Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan in a statement. “Every day circumstances are changing, so as we continue to monitor the situation we are making sure that our residents are aware of the resources we’re providing on a city-level until we’re in the clear.”
In addition, the executive order has cancelled all public meetings, including those held by the city council, planning and zoning boards, and other governing boards, until further notice. City-sponsored events and private events held on city property or requiring city permits are also cancelled. All city buildings and offices remain open to the public, but by appointment only.
A hotline has been established for anyone exhibiting symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19. They are urged to self-quarantine and call the hotline at 201 547-5208.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for the city’s SwiftReach reverse call alert system for advisories and updates.