TRENTON, NJ – Senator Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) is “disappointed”, she said, with Governor Phil Murphy’s veto of legislation she sponsored that would have expanded opportunities for restaurants, bars, and breweries to extend outdoor services areas to include covered and uncovered patios, decks, yards, walkways, and parking lots for both food and alcohol consumption.

The legislation, coming in response to efforts by food and drink establishments to survive the financial hardships brought on by COVID-19 “was a responsible proposal to help restaurants, bars and breweries that have experienced significant losses to expand their scope of services so they generate enough economic activity to survive this crisis,” she said. 

Despite being passed unanimously by both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, Murphy vetoed the bill Monday, saying in a statement that “in seeking to deliver a degree of relief to these businesses, the bill circumvents existing licensing and regulation processes critical to protecting the public’s health and safety.”

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Included in these concerns, Murphy pointed out, was the transfer of enforcement authority entirely to municipalities, limiting local official’s ability to reject applications for use of the additional space based on public health or safety concerns, and restricting a municipality’s ability to regulate the hours of operation of restaurants and bars.

Also sharing her disappointment with the action was Michelle Sierkerka, CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA). “If the Governor supported the intent of this bill, but thought it went too far, perhaps there should have been an effort to work with the Legislature for a conditional veto and still help ease these regulatory burdens on struggling businesses," she said.

“Instead, with the rejection of this legislation, which was passed unanimously by the Senate and Assembly, operations like restaurants, bars and breweries lose opportunities to expand and innovate. It’s critical that businesses have these flexibilities for as long as it is needed to maintain their operations during this time.” 

Despite the veto Pou said that she would continue to work with the Governor and her legislative colleagues to find effective ways to address the needs of these businesses during these challenging times.

“It is important that we establish consistent standards that provide predictability. We have to try to do right by local businesses that are striving to maintain their place in their home communities.”

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