FLEMINGTON, NJ - Outdoor sales and signage along the streets of Flemington will roll out faster and larger in scope, following a special council meeting June 15.

The meeting was held in response to Executive Order No. 150, which allows non-essential brick-and-mortar retail businesses to resume sales.  

The council voted 5-0, with Councilman Chris Runion not in attendance at the 10:30 a.m. meeting, to pass Resolution 2020-116 with the goal of easing municipal restrictions and giving retailers more options.

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The changes include allowing for additional signage, if it is to explain procedures during the pandemic, such as requiring the wearing of masks and limited occupancy.

And while outdoor displays of merchandise are allowed, it is restricted to the same types of goods available inside the store.  

“We are protecting all businesses by requiring that store owners aren’t changing the design of their business modal,” said OEM Director Corp. Brian McNally.

The new resolution also temporarily waives any of the regular procedures for obtaining a permit to place signage or merchandise tables on borough sidewalks by creating an Expedited Outdoor Retail Display, Sales and Signage Permit for the balance of 2020. A business owner needs only to fill out the new application and submit it with a design plan to borough zoning officer Jeff Klein for review, including the proposed placement of signs and tables on sidewalks.

The rush to give local businesses additional sales opportunities follows Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order on June 3, because while allowing retailers to reopen sounds good on paper, the reality is that all of the Stage 2 re-openings come with a long list of requirements.

The nine-page executive order and the 13-page corresponding Department of Health document laying out rules and restrictions went into effect at 6 a.m. Monday. While most of the document deals with conditions placed on restaurants, retailers must also must be in compliance.

Some of the conditions placed on re-opening non-essential businesses include limiting access to 50 percent of the interior capacity; wearing of masks; contactless payment when possible; regular sanitizing; and procedural signage, all of which places an additional burden on already struggling retailers.

Still, owners are glad to be moving in the right direction.

“We are so excited to be opening today,” said Lauren Riley, owner of 39 Mine Boutique. The trendy and boho chic clothing store will keep dressing rooms closed and require masks for the foreseeable future.

“Our customers are a little frustrated that they can’t try clothes on, but everyone knows it’s for their protection,” she said.

Riley said the borough and the Flemington Community Partnership were incredibly helpful during the shutdown.  

“As a borough, we want to utilize every tool available to support our local businesses,” said Council President Caitlin Giles-McCormick, “while we work toward improved public health and economic recovery. Allowing for the outdoor sale and additional displays of retail items is a key way we can support our local businesses and community."

In March, Murphy shuttered all businesses deemed non-essential, leaving vital businesses – grocery/food stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores, gas stations, healthcare facilities and ancillary stores within healthcare facilities – to continue operating.

New Jersey’s Road Back Plan that is designed to bring the state back to a questionable normalcy is tied to a decreased rate of reported new cases of COVID-19. The governor calls his multi-stage plan, “a methodical and strategic reopening of businesses and activities based on scientific data and metrics concerning the level of disease transmission risk and essential classification.”

For some, it’s too little progress and it’s taking too long. To the criticism the governor responded, “We will move as quickly as we can, but as safely as we must.”