Gov. Phil Murphy defended his decision not to allow restaurants to reopen to outdoor dining in time for the weekend, opting instead to reopen on June 15.
Many restaurant advocates, such as the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, are pushing for a June 12 reopening date, so that they could at least bring in some money over the weekend before the restart date.
“I can’t tell you how many June 12 versus 15, June 5, versus 15, [sic]” Murphy said Friday at his daily COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton.
“We put a date in that we felt was the most responsible on the one hand, and also gave them the runway to get their staffing and protocols in place,” he said. “That’s the day we’re sticking with.”
Starting June 15, bars and restaurants will be able to reopen for outdoor dining, with a myriad of health and safety protocols put in place. Tables have to be kept 6 feet apart and groups are limited to eight people. Face coverings must be worn when customers are away from their table.
The reopening guidelines also call for intense sanitization of the establishment, a push towards single-use items, and increased social distancing.
They come as the governor has rolled back many of the restrictions initially put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As part of “stage two” of reopneing, non-essential retail will also be allowed to begin with reduced capacity on June 15, and hair salons and barbershops on June 22.
An announcement on reopening public and privately-owned swimming pools is likely on Monday, the governor said. Gyms and fitness centers will also be allowed to reopen at limited capacity in the near future, the governor said, but a date has yet to be put forward for those entities.
New Jerseyans are awaiting dates on when they can resume indoor dining, museums, libraries, casinos, concerts and sporting events. Many of those fall into the third stage of the state’s reopening, which is contingent on a continual, steady decline in the number of new cases, hospitalizations and fatalities of COVID-19.
But, Murphy indicated he would like to see the state’s casinos reopened in some fashion by July 4 weekend.