KENILWORTH - Attilio Guarino, owner of Ava's Kitchen & Bar in Kenilworth, says enough is enough and plans to open for indoor dining on Tuesday, September 8.
Nearly all restaurants, with the exception of those who can open two walls for better ventilation, have been banned from serving food and beverage indoors since Governor Murphy's Executive Order back in mid March. As restaurants throughout the state close permanently due to hardships, including Pairings Palate + Plate and A Toute Heure in Cranford, Guarino says it's time for Gov. Murphy to allow restaurants to open for indoor dining or compensate them to remain closed.
"Small businesses can't take this much longer," said Guarino. "We are seeing restaurants close left and right. Mom and pop restaurants don't have money to operate like this for months at a time. It takes thousands of dollars a month to operate a restaurant. Takeout, delivery, and a few tables outside doesn't even put a dent into my expenses."
Guarino says that he hopes in the coming days Gov. Murphy will announce a date for indoor dining to return and that he won't have to open in defiance. He added that along with his restaurant, he has verbal commitments from 50 other restaurants across New Jersey that plan to join his movement and open for indoor seating on September 8. He did not mention specific names, but did say the restaurants are across Union, Monmouth, and Hudson County and the list continues to grow each day.
"If Gov. Murphy comes out and says indoor dining can resume on say September 15, I won't open on the 8th. I'll wait." said Guarino. "But as of now, we've been left in the dark with no end in sight and everybody is suffering. It's not just the restaurants. It's the food providers. The liquor distributors. It goes on and on."
Guarino acknowledges that some restaurants are doing some of their best numbers ever with outdoor seating, but restaurants like his that don't have a big outdoor area to set up tables continue to suffer.
"I understand people are still nervous of COVID-19. But those people can choose to dine outside, get takeout, or get delivery. They don't have to dine inside," said Guarino. "But if you want to dine inside, that should be allowed too. What's going to happen when it gets too cold?"
Guarino says he will open at a limited capacity with safely distanced tables and booths and not offer seating at the bar. Customers will be required to have a mask on when not seated at their table. The restaurant will also continue to offer outdoor seating, takeout, and delivery for those who choose to not eat inside. He also has assured his staff that anyone who is not comfortable working is allowed to stay home and will not face any repercussions.