TRENTON, NJ -- If you've got the late night munchies, you'll now have to order in because Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday, Nov. 10, signed Executive Order No. 194, which restricts seating and hours for restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges. The EO, which goes into effect on Thursday, Nov. 12, also prohibits interstate indoor youth sports.
"There's no doubt that it impacts us. The biggest bar night of the year (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) is coming. The kids come home from college and won't be able to sit with each other. It's another blow to our operation," said Joe Mortarulo, owner of Darby Road in downtown Scotch Plains.
"We have to adapt on the fly. It's not an easy thing to do," added Mortarulo, who is developing an app to make takeout and delivery easier for his customers. "Take out and delivery help us. Our kitchen will stay open until 11:00 p.m. on the weekends for it. We have to make changes to get ahead of the curve. We have to continue to adapt."
At Sheelen's Crossing in Fanwood, owner Sean Flannery says that his bar/restaurant will have to cut back personnel and their shifts.
"Nobody sits outside once the temperature goes below 55, even with the heaters. We need to keep walls open," said Flannery, who said the restrictions will mean his business will need another round of PPP (government loans) within 30 days.
Barry O'Donovan, owner of Kilkenny House in Cranford, has had to emphasize his food, rather than drinks.
"We are a restaurant with a bar, not a bar with a restaurant, and we were closing at 10:00 p.m. anyway. The fact that people can't sit at the bar, means we will put more tables there."
"I understand that they are worried about people gathering at Thanksgiving. The night before is usually the best night of the year," he said. "If the weather stays warm, we are good. December through February will be tough. My best months are March through May. I lost them this year."
Other restaurants, such as the Scotchwood Diner, that rely less heavily on the drinking crowd, won't be impacted as much as the bar owners are.
"This won't affect us too much," said Nick Zalokostas, owner of the Scotchwood Diner, which will cut back its evening hours from midnight to 10:00 p.m. for inside dining. "Fortunately, we have seen an increase in deliveries after 10:00 p.m. That part of our business has picked up."
"People have started to come in for indoor dining -- not as much as we hoped so far, but they have been coming," said Max of Max's Pizza in downtown Scotch Plains.
In general, pizzerias and other eateries that emphasize takeout and delivery orders have faired better than fine dining establishments.
“As cases of COVID-19 increase across the country and in our state, we must take all measures necessary to stop the spread,” Murphy said. “In the interest of public health, we are requiring modifications in operations for businesses that serve food and drinks, and temporarily prohibiting interstate games and tournaments for indoor K-12 sports. We must come together as a state to once again beat back this deadly virus and to save lives.”
Restrictions on Hours for Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Lounges, and Casinos
- Restaurants, bars, clubs, and other businesses that serve food or drinks will not be able to operate their indoor premises between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Outdoor dining can continue after 10:00 p.m., as can takeout and delivery services.
- Casinos will not be able to serve food or drinks between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., except for room service delivered to guest rooms and takeout. Gaming will be unaffected.
Restrictions on Bar Seating, Increased Flexibility for Restaurants
- Seating at the physical bar in the indoor areas of bars and restaurants will be prohibited during all operating hours.
- Due to the impact this may have on restaurants with small seating areas, restaurants will be allowed to have groups at tables indoors that are closer than six feet together, if they are separated by barriers that comply with guidance from the Department of Health.
- Restaurants will be allowed to set up plastic domes outdoors, limited to one group each, as additional outdoor dining space.
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