Senator Anthony M. Bucco said restaurant owners who are facing financial ruin are growing increasingly desperate for Governor Phil Murphy to lift a prohibition on indoor dining that he issued by executive order in March.

Sen. Tony Bucco said restaurant owners facing financial ruin are growing increasingly desperate for Gov. Phil Murphy to lift a prohibition on indoor dining that he issued by executive order in March. (Pixabay)

“Governor Murphy’s five-month ban on indoor dining is leading to a restaurant apocalypse in New Jersey,” said Bucco (R-25). “Tens of thousands of restaurant workers remain unemployed, and more and more of the establishments where they worked are closing their doors forever. You can understand the desperation of restaurant owners who have invested their lives and savings into their businesses only to have it all taken away with the signing of an executive order by the governor.”

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

According to published reports, 23% of New Jersey’s 25,000 full-service restaurants had gone out of business by the end of June. In recent public forums with the restaurant industry, 50% of the state’s restaurants were said to be at risk of going under.

That desperation to keep their businesses alive with no clear direction from the governor has led some small establishments to open their doors to indoor dining in defiance of the executive order.

One such establishment, the Lakeside Diner in Forked River, was ordered to be shut down by the New Jersey Department of Health. Sheriff’s officers enforcing the Murphy administration’s order are reported to have brought a locksmith to the diner overnight to change the locks and prevent the owners from entering their business.

“I’m not sure how the governor can defend locking business owners out of their businesses or removing their property without permission,” said Bucco. “They have constitutional rights that the Murphy administration is trampling over to enforce an executive order that should have been adjusted months ago.”

With no widespread transmission of the coronavirus in New Jersey, the state’s restaurant industry has been begging the Murphy administration to ease restrictions that are no longer necessary. The governor recently made comments that were flatly refuted by the NJ Restaurant & Hospitality Association that industry representatives had never sought to discuss the matter with him.

“Our restaurants have been prepared since May to welcome customers into their dining rooms safely,” added Bucco. “After so many months of operating in the red, they’re desperate for a clear timeline from the administration to decide if they can stretch their finances long enough to survive. It’s irresponsible of the governor not to provide some guidance that would allow these business owners to make informed decisions. All they’re getting is radio silence from the Murphy administration which still hasn’t offered a ‘crisp plan,’ and New Jersey’s restaurant apocalypse continues.”

The governor had previously announced that limited indoor dining could resume on July 2nd, but reversed his order just as dining rooms were set to reopen.

Bucco worked closely with the Morris County Chamber of Commerce to develop and issue a detailed reopening plan that was sent to the governor in May to save businesses and jobs, with safe, risk-based mitigation measures.