Reopening New Jersey: State suing Asbury Park over indoor dining as NJ preps for Phase 2

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey is set to enter Phase 2 of its reopening as the state emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, and Governor Phil Murphy announced a lawsuit Friday against one town defying his executive order.

The city of Asbury Park made a controversial decision, with the City Council voting to allow limited indoor dining at its restaurants even though only outdoor dining is permitted.

"We've tried to work with the governing body of Asbury Park to resolve the issue of indoor dining," Murphy tweeted. "Because they haven't done so, @NewJerseyOAG will bring a lawsuit today against the city government of Asbury Park. Our rules are based on one principle - ensuring public health."

Despite the vote, the council previously acknowledged there could be consequences.

"While Council has approved indoor food and beverage service with restrictions, businesses should be aware this could be overruled by the State of New Jersey," a press release read. "Since Governor Murphy has not yet allowed indoor dining, participating businesses could be considered in violation of Executive Orders and may be subject to fines by the State of New Jersey."

It remains unclear if any restaurants will allow indoor seating. Still, Murphy said he was sympathetic to the plight of businesses and local economies but that safety comes first.

"One step forward today cannot, must not, will not lead to two steps back tomorrow," he said. "It's about saving every single life that we can save together. So the actions of the Asbury Park governing body, a great community in the state, bless their hearts, their actions are inconsistent with my executive order. We cannot have one set of rules for one town and another for another town. We move as one state, guided by data."

Along with Phase 2, churches are welcoming back parishioners for weekend masses.

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Anthony Johnson speaks with restaurant owners eager to throw open the doors.



A large cathedral like St. John the Baptist can hold about 1,800 people, but they are now limited to just 50 as restrictions limit houses of worship to 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller.

On Monday, the Archdiocese of Newark will allow public weekday Masses with restrictions.

Archdiocesan parishes, which already have been reopened for private prayer, will now be reopened for the celebration of Masses, funerals, baptisms and weddings.

The next stage of reopening also includes non-essential in-person retail, and child care services will also be allowed to resume Monday.

Salons and barbershops are still a week away, slated to reopen June 22, along with cosmetology shops, day and medical spas, electrology facilities, hair braiding shops, massage parlors, nail salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlors. Organized sports will also resume activities on June 22.

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