RED BANK, NJ - Although he planned to loosen restrictions on indoor dining in New Jersey on Thursday, July 2, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his daily COVID-19 press conference Monday that he will delay the reopening. He provided no timetable of when indoor dining -- even at reduced capacity -- would resume.

Murphy pointed to packed crowds at outdoor bars and restaurants -- with people not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing -- as reasons for postponing the return of indoor dining indefinitely.

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.

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"We have enormous sympathy (for small business owners) but the alternative is worse," Murphy said. "Keeping up the fight is even more important now to prevent us from backsliding."

“The Governor pulls the plug two days before we’re opening. The casinos are opening, malls are opening, everything is opening except for restaurants,” said George Lyristis, owner of Teak and The Bistro restaurants in Red Bank and Greek Eats in Shrewsbury. 

Restaurants had ordered food, hired additional staff and have extra precautions in place in anticipation of the opening.

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

According to the NJ.gov website on what may open includes retail stores, NJ casinos, Malls, tattoo and tanning salons and outdoor recreational businesses including swim and golf clubs.

“None of the business owners want to put anybody at risk.  We’ve been shut down for almost 90 days, with a very limited revenue stream.  Our rents are due, our payrolls and back bills are still there, and (the Governor) keeps pushing us back without any kind of insight (on closures) until he feels like it.  There’s no rhyme or reason on why he does things," said restaurateur Lyristis.

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