HOBOKEN, NJ - After a week of growing pains, Hoboken's outdoor dining operations are coming under tighter scrutiny. The enhanced outdoor dining—coming in the form of outdoor cafés, parklets and streateries—were implemented as a way to pump some life into the city's world-renowned hospitality scene, which had been essentially dormant since mid-March due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, complaints have been rolling into the Mayor and other authorities regarding issues such as masks and social distancing, requiring the City to underscore a number of directives.

“The City of Hoboken is proud to assist our small business owners with creative and innovative ways to expand outdoor operations,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “I’m glad the majority of business owners taking the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees. At the same time, based on feedback we’ve received, we are implementing additional safety measures that further protects our City and addresses overcrowding and social distancing issues that we’ve seen at a handful of establishments. I’m confident that these added precautions, along with the continued partnership of the City and our small businesses, will lend to a safer experience for everyone.”

Some of the feedback Bhalla mentions has come in the form of social media posts where residents are submitting snapshots of venues they feel are flouting the regulations. As a result, Bhalla signed an executive order Monday establishing new safety regulations for bars and restaurants with outdoor dining within the City of Hoboken.

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The Executive Order maintains that:

  1. All businesses must require, to the extent practicable, any patrons waiting for entry into an establishment, or on the property or adjacent property to a bar, restaurant or other type of Hoboken business, to wear a face mask, and social distance at least six feet from other patrons or customers. Face masks do not need to be worn when seated at an outdoor restaurant.
  2. No business is permitted to serve "to go" drinks to standing patrons while waiting for a table or entrance into an establishment.
  3. The capacity of an outdoor cafe, outdoor sidewalk cafe, or any outdoor area is limited to the number of seats available, as approved by the zoning office.
  4. Only patrons who are seated are able to be served at an outdoor cafe or outdoor space, and all customers must be seated while consuming beverages or food. Customers may not stand and congregate with other patrons while consuming alcoholic beverages.
  5. All servers must wear a face mask and gloves, with the face mask covering both the mouth and the nose.
  6. All tables and chairs must be six feet apart, measured from the back of a chair with a patron seated to the back of a chair at an adjacent table, as measured when a patron is seated.

As for enforcement, the Office of Emergency Management, Zoning Office, and Police Department are directed to initially provide a verbal warning. Should conditions persist, that warning will be followed by a written warning. If compliance is still not met after the verbal and written warning and a violation is issued, the establishment may have their outdoor sidewalk cafe revoked for a period of time to be determined by the enforcing department. The warning can also take the part of a ticket issued by the Police Department for the public consumption of alcohol on an establishment’s property.

Similar enforcement initiatives have been enacted statewide, and in New York City as well.

Meanwhile, Hoboken continues to work with hospitality venues to create and optimize new and existing outdoor spaces throughout the City, as bars and restaurants adjust to the evolving regulations.

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