NEWTON, NJ- Food establishments across the state, including in Sussex County, are experiencing disappointments and concerns over the uncertainties of when indoor dining will be permitted again in New Jersey. 

After having originally set the target date for July 2 to permit inside dining, Governor Phil Murphy announced on June 29, he has deferred the reopening of dining establishments to an undetermined future date. The Governor made the decision after claiming some venues were overcrowded during outside dining, with patrons neither social distancing, nor wearing face coverings. 

“Our local restaurants have endured so much already, but to allow them to prepare and finance a reopening, only to have the rug ripped out from underneath them at the last minute is cruel,” said Sussex County Freeholder Joshua Hertzberg. “I completely understand the need to make concessions for the health of the public, but there is a better way. One size does not fit all.” 

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Freeholder Hertzberg advocated for a regionalized approach to reopening, stating that local leadership understands the region better than Trenton and can control the local response. He suggested providing safety guidelines to allow Sussex County restaurants that are willing and able to comply to open, offering these establishments an opportunity to survive. 

Tammie Horsfield, President of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership, said in preparation for the potential to reopen for indoor dining, she witnessed a “new energy and hope for future success” from restaurant owners, since the start of the pandemic. These business owners, she said, made significant fiscal investments in food and beverage purchases, as well as made preparations for the return of their staff members. 

“Many of our restaurant owners shared how important it was to have at least 25 percent of indoor dining to help them survive,” she said. “Unfortunately, when our Governor pulled the plug on indoor dining, two days before the opening, our businesses were left literally holding the bag. I hope our restaurant owners can hang on a little longer with the hope that they are able to open up indoor dining soon.”