MIDDLETOWN, NJ – After reports Sunday that Nicholas Barrel & Roost, one of Governor Phil Murphy’s favorite local restaurants, was serving patrons inside in an enclosed bar area, the governor himself was spotted there on Wednesday. Murphy was spotted eating dinner at the outside patio bar. The incident was documented by Monmouth GOP political blogger Art Gallagher on his More Monmouth Musings blog.
While Murphy moves to shut down and lockdown outlaw restaurants who serve patrons indoors, he has apparently given his favorite local watering hole a free pass. The restaurant owner says he is following the guidelines of the executive order, but photos posted by Gallagher show the restaurant with four solid walls.
A restaurant liked by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Nicholas Barrel and Roost, formerly Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown is under fire this week after a video was released showing diners eating inside. Murphy got himself into some trouble at the restaurant back in November of 2018 during a massive snowstorm that crippled the state’s highway and roadway infrastructure. As millions of New Jerseyeans were stuck on unsalted, unplowed roadways, Murphy was enjoying a dinner at the restaurant which is just one mile from his home.
On Monday, owner Nicholas Harary reopened with reservations only. Within hours, a video appeared on social media of diners inside and at the bar.
Harary contends that his restaurant is not violating Phil Murphy’s executive order that allows for dining in establishments with at least two completely open walls. The restaurant instead has four enclosed walls and several windows open in the video. While the restaurant has added an outdoor patio dining area, patrons are clearly visible in the bar, and the restaurant says reservations for bar and patio service are available.
“Due to COVID-19, we are Reservations Only for both the Barrel Room Bar and outdoor patio. No walk-ins will be accepted as we are monitoring the number of patrons to ensure the safety of both our customers and staff. Reservations open on Mondays, two weeks in advance at 11 am,” the restaurant said on its own website.
In an interview with the Asbury Park Press today, Harary said that now is not the time for restaurateurs and residents to be attacking each other over the ban on indoor dining.
“As a family-run business, I sympathize with all restaurateurs and what we are collectively going through,” he said to the newspaper. “The last thing in the world we should do is attack small business owners or each other.”
While he is right, the matter brings into question the unequal enforcement by the Murphy administration regarding enforcing the indoor dining executive order. Murphy’s order bans indoor dining, but in recent days, violations at two Ocean County restaurants were handled differently. A Lakewood Township restaurant serving approximately 100 people indoors was given a violation by police after the services were completed.
In Lacey Township, Sheriff’s officers showed up at a diner in that town with a locksmith in tow and changed the locks, locking out the owner.