WESTFIELD, NJ — Indoor dining, which was set to resume in New Jersey on Thursday at 25% capacity, has been postponed, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Murphy cited COVID-19 spikes in other states, which he said were driven in part by the return of indoor dining, as a reason. He also pointed to packed crowds at some outdoor bars and restaurants, with people not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing rules.

“I’m saddened about the governor’s announcement,” Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corp., told TAPinto Westfield. “I know that many of our restaurants were looking forward to welcoming diners indoors, even with social distancing and the requirement to wear masks. Obviously, a lot of our businesses will be disappointed.”

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“This is horrible and absolutely not fair for us,” said Eman Mobarak, owner of Westfield Station Café on South Avenue. Mobarak had ordered more food, hired additional staff and even upgraded the café’s air conditioning system in anticipation of opening for indoor dining Thursday.

“I don't know how long we can make it,” she said.

Mobarak believes she can serve patrons safely indoors with extra precautions in place, and she questioned why restaurants were being singled out while indoor shopping is allowed to continue.

But not all local restaurant owners are upset with the reversal.

“I’m actually kind of relieved with the decision,” said Lillian Pien, owner of Akai Lounge, a Japanese restaurant on East Broad Street. “A lot of my staff had hesitation about working if we were to open indoors.”

Pien said she originally planned to delay indoor dining for a few weeks due to her employees’ concerns.

“I am actually really glad the governor made this decision,” she added. “It’s tough and it certainly doesn’t help business, but safety comes first. It should always be first.”

Murphy referred to the postponement as “indefinite,” leaving restaurateurs to guess as to when they may be able to welcome customers back inside. 

“I hope that this decision can soon be turned around so indoor dining can become a reality,” Zuckerman said. “Fortunately, diners still have the option of eating outside, ordering delivery or arranging for curbside pickup and we hope that everyone will continue to patronize our small businesses, who still need our support.”

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