Last call comes at 10 p.m. Thursday, under an order that went into Nov. 12 requiring indoor dining to close at that time, and which bans bar seating for the near future, as COVID-19 cases surge in New Jersey and nationwide.
The order prohibits sit-down indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., but outdoor dining, takeout and delivery can continue beyond these hours. Eateries were required to stop bar-seating as of 5 a.m. today, under the executive order.
“Restaurants were morphing as the night went on – into clubs, into lounges,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a Thursday morning appearance on the TODAY Show. “People were just letting their guard down, particularly in and around bars.”
Indoor interstate youth sports at the high school level are banned as part of this latest round of restrictions, the first in months. College and professional sports will not be affected by this new order.
Murphy announced the new restrictions on Monday, signing the order the next day, as New Jersey sees new daily cases at levels not seen since April, and total COVID-19 hospitalizations not seen since the summer: over 1,800 patients.
In July, the state saw as low as less than 400 new cases. During the outbreak’s peak in April, New Jersey saw more than 4,300 new cases a day, and over 6,000 total COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“Our numbers have gone up dramatically,” the governor added on Thursday morning. “Everything is going in the wrong direction.”
The order allows restaurant owners to offer outdoor dining inside igloo-type structures, so long as they provide heating to protect against the fast-approaching colder weather, and if they are limited to just one group.
Additionally, they can seat groups closer than six feet together as long as there is plexiglass between tables.
Casinos, retail and other entertainment venues cannot offer indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., even if they stay open past 10 p.m. Several of the casinos, when contacted, declined to comment on the new restrictions.
“The Casino Association of New Jersey understands the administration’s concerns and that is why the industry has taken extraordinary measures to safely welcome back thousands of hardworking employees and valued guests, while also helping to minimize the exposure of Atlantic City casino property guests, our employees, and our local community to the COVID-19 virus,” reads a statement from Steve Calendar, the casino trade group’s president.
The indoor dining restrictions do not apply to the airports, such as the food court at Newark Liberty International Airport. Because of the pandemic, they currently offer grab-and-go food options. The Borgata in Atlantic City is also offering grab and go options for in-room dining.