TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) — Restaurants in New Jersey will be able to open for indoor dining at 25% capacity starting this Friday.
Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement in a tweet Monday morning.
"Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19," Murphy said.
The governor said restaurants must maintain six feet of distance between tables, staff must wear masks at all times, diners will be required to wear face coverings when not seated at their table and food and beverages can only be consumed while seated.
Eating at a restaurant's bar will also be allowed as long as social distancing is in place and any group seated together at the bar is capped at four people.
Restaurants that provide food service at their bars may allow patrons to dine at the bar – provided that all diners are kept at proper social distances Any group seated together at the bar is capped at four individuals.
Strict ventilation requirements will also be in place. Murphy said windows must be opened to ensure a proper flow of fresh air into the dining areas and air conditioner units must be turned so that they’re allowing for the maximum amount of outdoor air to be introduced to the dining area.
"We’ve been working hard for several months to get to this point," Murphy said. "Our job now is to ensure that this reopening only leads to future announcements expanding the indoor capacity limits, and that we do not have to take a step backward."
Restaurant owners have said the survival of their businesses depends on indoor dining as the weather changes.
“Going back to delivering takeout is just not sustainable, it just isn’t. You know, we have a big restaurant inside and outside, and that’s what we pay for,” Travis Young, owner of Elysian Café in Hoboken, told WCBS 880 last week. “We want everybody to be safe. We want our customers to be safe, our staff to be safe and healthy. But we do need to run our business, and we do need to keep it afloat."
Outdoor dining was permitted in June and diners were later given the green light to eat inside for July 4, but then the governor put those plans on hold.
A restaurant trade group estimates almost one-third of its members might never recover from the shutdown.
During his daily briefing Monday afternoon, Murphy announced that movie theaters and other indoor performance venues will also be allowed to reopen this Friday at 25% capacity or a maximum of 150 people.
"Each showing, and each theater in a multi-plex, will be subject to capacity limits," Murphy said. "If you have four screens, each screen will be held to the lesser of 25% capacity or 150 people."
Face masks and social distancing will be mandatory.
Murphy on Sunday said there were 352 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 191,960 positive cases.
There were also eight more deaths reported Monday. The statewide death toll is now 14,165, not including 1,780 probable deaths.