BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - While news outlets keep stating we are on the "verge" of re-opening, we just aren't there yet in Berkeley Heights. Drive around town -- it's the same offerings of delivery, curbside pick-up and grab & gos. Other service type industries remain online or are open under severe restrictions. The majority of businesses have been shuttered since March 16 under the executive order of Gov. Phil Murphy.

Theoretical guidelines, new protective measures and state regulations in preparation of re-opening of businesses are being shared by the township administration through their website and through news blasts from the Berkeley Heights Business & Civic (BHB&C). Mayor Angie Devanney, the township council, and administration have also been available for focus discussions to brainstorm to help the business community.

Some new looks you will see when visiting our local mainstay businesses will include the addition of plexiglass dividers at the cash register, readily available hand sanitizer, required face masks, and the possibility of utilizing more outside space for restaurants. They need to adjust their operations to adhere to proper distancing between customers. Some extra measures for restaurants include disposable menus, waiters wearing face shields and disposable gloves, and a lot more sanitizing and disinfecting. There were also discussions of purchasing thermometers to scan the temperature of incoming customers. These protective measures and mandates with PPE, masks, capacity limits, contactless check out and other protective measures are constantly changing. Keep in mind, after the businesses adhere to all of these extra safety measures, they will be serving a much smaller audience.

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What will the new normal look like? Businesses need to create this new normal -- and the brainstorming of ideas are flowing. Bottom line, these businesses want to be prepared for the day they can re-open to their "new normal."  But of utmost importance is the protection of their customer. If the customer doesn't feel safe -- they won't return. It's that simple.  

Businesses will take these measures to create a safe environment for our community. With the work of the administration and OEM, guidelines continue to evolve. On Tuesday, an ordinance will be introduced at the Council meeting to allow restaurants to seek approval for additional outdoor dining areas in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay tuned as the Governor rolls out permission for more businesses to operate under his new guidelines. 

Meanwhile, the BHB&C is preparing to award its second and final round of Business Aid relief grants to the 48 businesses that applied. To date, the fund has raised over $66,000 and is still accepting donations.  The first round awarded $1,000 to 45 Berkeley Heights businesses on May 6, 2020. 

The Connell Company has generously offered another $25,000 matching donation to help raise more funds to help the Berkeley Heights business community. If you'd like to help the Business Aid fund meet this challenge, visit the BHB&C website to donate. 

The Rotary Club of Berkeley Heights has also committed to helping the business community by partnering with the BHB&C to sponsor a Virtual Silent Auction. Items have been donated by the local businesses and various community organizations and the school district. Donations for this silent auction are still being accepted through Wednesday, May 27. Email your donation ASAP to: bhbusinessandcivic.com

To date, over 38 businesses have donated items that include gift certificates, memberships and a grand prize Back Yard "Graduation" Party for 25 people including food by Delicious Heights; tent, tables and chairs by Taylor Rental; flowers by Anything Floral; and balloons by Balloon Design Studio. The items will be organized and grouped into valuable baskets, photographed and professionally auctioned by Silent Auction Pro. Stay tuned for more details on auction dates with full list of items that will be displayed on the Silent Auction Pro website. 

Shop, Dine and Support Local. Click here for business directory provided by Berkeley Heights Communications Committee.