BARNEGAT/WARETOWN, NJ -  Just last week, Governor Phil Murphy gave the go ahead that local restaurants can open outdoors on June 15th.  The mayors in both Barnegat and Ocean Township are already working on opening the doors to expand outdoor dining in their communities.

Reached early at his home thing morning, Barnegat Mayor John Novak explained that four restaurants within the community already have permits allowing outdoor dining.  Doyle’s Pour House, East Bay Grille, Lefty’s Tavern, and Sweet Jenny’s Restaurant will just need to learn the state guidelines when they open to serve customers outside.

According to the township ordinance, outdoor dining may be permissible for eating establishments by “the sidewalks immediately in front of any restaurant, cafe, cafeteria or place of business where food and/or other refreshments are served, or where permitted on private property pursuant to the Land Use Ordinance.”

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“We are considering allowing other restaurants to apply for the process on a more expedited basis,” said Novak. “The permits would be temporary based on the circumstances. The other four establishments went through an extensive process. However, we want all of our local businesses to have a chance to do well.”

Ocean Township does not have a local law in place regarding outdoor dining. However, the township committee will consider passing of a resolution allowing the expansion next week.

“Our code actually prevented establishments from outdoor dining,” Mayor Ken Baulderstone explained. “Based on the circumstances, we want to create a special permit that makes it easier to offer outdoor dining.”

In Ocean Township, authorities do not intend to charge a fee for the special permit. Restaurants will need to identify where they intend to offer the service. Additionally, plans must be submitted regarding compliance with state law. Breweries will also be able to offer outdoor services.

Jennifer and Lefteddy Saropoulos are the owners of Lefty’s in Barnegat. Although the state has not established guidelines for outdoor dining, Jennifer has been following the recommendations of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

If the state follows the suggestions from the restaurant association, tables will need to be spaced a minimum of six feet apart.  Groups at tables would be limited to eight patrons. Restaurants would also be required to use approve COVID-19 cleaning supplies to clean tables and chairs after each use. Of course, there is always the question of bathroom facilities.

“For us, it’s easy to make our bathrooms available,” shared Jennifer. “We plan to close off access to our bar and dining room area. Of course, the plan is to keep the bathrooms sanitized as well.”

Lefty’s will also require its servers to wear masks and plans to limit the menu for outdoor dining. This allows quicker service during potentially hot weather. Those who wish to dine outside at the local eatery will need to make a reservation in advance.

“We want to comply with social distancing concerns,” Jennifer explained. “With reservations, people won’t need to wait and will be able to avoid crowds.”

No doubt that even with take-out and curbside service, restaurants have suffered losses due to the state’s mandatory shutdown. As the sun starts to spread its warmth, it is hopeful that offering outdoor dining will help local eateries in weathering through their economic storm.