FORKED RIVER, NJ – If there’s anything I learned from my visit this week to the Lakeside Diner in Forked River, it’s that indoor dining can be done safely in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been outlaw dining in Pennsylvania a few times and we’ve been very pleased with our experiences. Now that we’ve done it in New Jersey, I can safely say, there’s nothing to fear.
First, when you walk into an indoor dining facility, common sense has to kick in. How is the staff working the tables? How is food being prepared and served? What kind of safety protocols are being used? Common sense should be the deciding factor in any COVID-19 decisions you make.
Walking into the Lakeside, you, “mask up” before going in. You put your name on a list and let the host or hostess know where you’ll be…in your car, outside, etc. There are hand sanitizer stations all over the place. The staff is all wearing masks, tables are spaced out so that every other table is empty, the entire restaurant was clean and pristine. There was plenty of circulation and in no way was there a fear of contracting anything here.
Owner Brian Brindisi said he stresses all of the recommendations by the Center for Disease Control regarding indoor dining and not only does he cover all the bases, but his operation is also running better and more assuring than the outlaw dining we did in Pennsylvania. This is the third time we’ve done it, and I have to tell you, it feels good to be human after being locked up for months and really just being beaten down in every way by our governor and his policies.
I’m not a huge fan of outdoor dining unless there’s a reason to be outdoors, such as overlooking the bay, a park, the ocean, a nice view. Sitting under a tent on plastic furniture in 90 degree heat and high humidity with flies circling and cars passing while in a makeshift restaurant in a parking lot really isn’t my thing. I’d rather order a pizza and eat out by the pool.
Before you think, this is weaksauce, I served four years in the Marines. I’ve eaten meals in the worst possible conditions and places on earth, from deserts to jungles. I’ve slept on concrete pads with rocks as pillows. It’s not about that. It’s not something I enjoyed and I don’t have any interest in roughing it when I take the family out for dinner. I’ve eaten things that had no way to even describe what they are in places that wouldn’t even meet NYC health department standards.
With that being said, I want to relax and enjoy myself without mosquitos, gnats, flies, heat, humidity, car exhaust, car horns or heavy traffic. It is what it what is. There are a handful of places that have made excellent outdoor dining areas and there are places that just threw a bunch of old patio furniture under a tent they’re renting from Omar the Tent Man.
The Lakeside Diner should not be shut down. Murphy should make this place an example, but not the example he’s trying to make of it. For two months or more now, Brindisi has been serving meals and there’s been zero infections. None. This is a proven fact, because if a single one of Phil Murphy’s contact tracers (1,500 in all) traced a COVID-19 outbreak back to the Lakeside, Murphy would spike the football…well, in his case wave the tennis racket in the air and tell the world how right he is and how dangerous dining in really is.
Brindisi said he doesn’t want a fight with the governor, he just wants to be able to feed his family and put food on the table and that’s what he’s doing. He’s doing it in a way that is safe, adhering to CDC guidelines and I want to lay down a challenge to Murphy. He’s spending his weekends down here in Ocean County, so stop by and see for yourself. Stop sending state troopers, sheriffs, locksmiths and asking the mayor to board up this man’s business. Stop being a coward and hiding behind the camera in Trenton then coming out for photo ops. See first hand how it’s being done and use the Lakeside Diner as a model of success. Create a commission and let this man be part of it to help you find a path to reopening restaurants.