TRENTON, NJ -- Although he planned to loosen restrictions on indoor dining in New Jersey on Thursday, July 2, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his daily COVID-19 press conference Monday that he will delay the reopening. He provided no timetable of when indoor dining -- even at reduced capacity -- would resume.

Murphy pointed to packed crowds at outdoor bars and restaurants -- with people not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing -- as reasons for postponing the return of indoor dining indefinitely.

"We have been cautious throughout every step of our restart. We’ve always said that we would not hesitate to hit pause if needed to safeguard public health. This is one of those times. After COVID-19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely," said Murphy, who announced 18 new COVID-19 related deaths and downward trends of key measures on Monday.

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"We have enormous sympathy (for small business owners) but the alternative is worse," Murphy said. "Keeping up the fight is even more important now to prevent us from backsliding."

“We have seen spikes in other states driven, in part, by the return of patrons to indoor dining establishments, where they are seated, and without face coverings,” he said. “We are also moved to take this step because of what we have seen in some establishments across the state.”

Minority Leader in the New Jersey State Assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, was quick to speak out.

"I am very disappointed that the Governor without any consultation of the elected legislature stopped reopening of indoor dining scheduled for this Thursday," said Bramnick via Twitter. "This should not be decided by one person. No transparency, no discussion and no debate."

Restaurateurs react

"I am okay with the decision to delay,":Khris Reina, owner of The Oakley in Nutley, said, "but it would be nice to see the bad actors (restaurants that didn't follow the rules) get penalized instead of everyone"

"We are in a better situation than most," Reina continued, "because we have almost 70 outdoor seats, mostly on our terrace, so we can survive a longer indoor shutdown. Its hardest on our bartenders, because they can't make any direct tips from customers sitting at the bar."

"Currently, the rules are very simple whether you like it or not," said The Old Canal Inn's Mark Conca. "Go out, practice social distancing, and wear a mask. It's not that difficult."

"By not wearing it you're continuing the possible increase in the spread and you're affecting all the small local businesses that are following the rules and struggling to get by." he added


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