Governor Phil Murphy announced that restaurants in New Jersey can offer indoor dining beginning this Friday.
Indoor dining will only be permitted at 25% capacity to start and social distancing measures must be in place.
The governor tweeted, "Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state's key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19."
NEW: Today, I’m signing an Executive Order that will allow indoor dining to resume:— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) August 31, 2020
☑️Effective 6:00 AM on Friday, 9/4
☑️At 25% capacity
☑️With social distancing in place
Our goal is to ensure this step is done properly to prevent the kind of spikes we saw in other states. pic.twitter.com/Ro49WPThBr
Hours later, he announced the reopening of movie theaters and other indoor performance venues on Friday, September 4th.
Each showing, and each theater in a multi-plex, will be subject to capacity limits. If you have four screens, each screen will be held to the lesser of 25% capacity or 150 people. Social distancing and mask-wearing will be required.
The state is also increasing the capacity limits for indoor gatherings to the lesser of either 25 percent capacity or 150 individuals, including religious services and celebrations, weddings, funerals, memorial services and political activities.
Restaurant owners have been waiting for the reopening news for months. Starting on Friday, Anthony David's will welcome another 23 customers for inside seating and eating.
The announcement from the governor Monday morning has been long awaited but now restaurants will have to gear up the staff for what is expected to be a wave of customers.
The owner says he will keep the outside dining and is already preparing for the fall and winter season for continued outdoor seating.
While many customers have been waiting to return indoors, some say they are fine with outdoor dining no matter the weather.
The hope is that the 25% capacity will be successful and they will be able to expand as we move into the holiday season, which is a traditionally busy period for restaurants. But, with COVID-19 still around caution will be the key.
Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said Murphy's Monday announcement was "unfortunately long overdue."
Murphy had said indoor dining could reopen before the July 4 holiday, but changed his mind, citing worsening COVID-19 figures. That decision was met with criticism, including by Siekerka, who said the state's businesses lost out on the "prime summer season," losing patrons to open restaurants in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Jack Ciattarelli, a former member of the Assembly, is running for the GOP nomination for governor to take on Murphy next year. He also called the decision long overdue and said if health conditions permit, then capacity should be increased incrementally, rising to 50% by November.
New Jersey restaurants had already been cleared for outdoor dining.
As of Monday, New Jersey had 352 new positive cases, pushing the state's cumulative total to 191,960.
There were eight new confirmed COVID-19 deaths for a total of 14,165 lives lost.
(Some information from the Associated Press)
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