MIDDLETOWN, NJ – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is once again changing the rules of the game and picking winners and losers. On Wednesday, Murphy dined out, as if in defiance of detractors at Nicholas Barrel and Roost in Middletown. The restaurant became the focus of controversy after a now-deleted video surfaced on Facebook showing the indoor dining area of the restaurant packed with diners.
The owner, Nicholas Harary claims he is not defying Murphy’s executive order that states an establishment must have 50%, or two sides of the restaurant complete exposed to the outside to serve patrons. The restaurant is a fully enclosed building with several large windows, clearly not within the guidelines of Murphy’s executive order.
On Wednesday, Art Gallagher, of More Monmouth Musings showed up at the restaurant after being tipped off that Murphy was at the restaurant. Gallagher got a bonus when a Middletown police officer showed up to issue Harary a warning that he is in violation of the Governor’s executive order.
According to Middletown Business Administrator Anthony Mercantante, Harary’s restaurant is in violation of Murphy’s executive order.
“It’s very simple. The governor’s executive order says you have to have 50 percent of all your perimeter walls open to be considered outdoors, and they don’t have that,” Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante said in an Asbury Park Press interview. “Now, they interpret that differently. But you read the precise language of the executive order, that’s what it says.”
When asked about his night at the outlaw restaurant, Murphy replied in a smug manner.
“I mean, c’mon,” Murphy said about one of his favorite restaurants, which is just under one mile from his personal residence. “I haven’t eaten since I can’t remember when I ate indoors. Well, listen, that place is like another place that eh, uh, we’ve been to where they’ve got clearly the, they got, I didn’t even see if there was anyone eating inside, but they got those big, they’re not windows, they’re doors, but that’s a local reality. I don’t show up with a tape measure and figure out whether or not the guy’s got 50% of his walls open, if he doesn’t then he deserves whatever is coming his way and if he does, I wish him the best.”
Murphy gave a rave review of his favorite local watering hole.
“But we were outside and had a really good meal,” he said.
The local police department disagreed with Murphy’s measurements, which like his science and math during the pandemic has been nothing short of fuzzy. Under Murphy’s latest interpretation of his executive order, which he’s now practicing without a license, Murphy said he didn’t feel the restaurant was out of compliance. Murphy’s State Trooper detail also was at the restaurant and didn’t act to enforce the compliance, although New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan is the lead enforcer of Murphy’s executive orders in the state, reporting daily on business infractions by businesses who aren’t good friends with the governor.
Nobody wants to see the Nicholas Barrel and Roost shut down. What New Jersey wants to see is their governing ending the illegal actions he has taken against small business owners statewide, but even his best friends and favorite restaurants can’t be given a pass while he is moving to board up other restaurants and gyms in violation of his orders.
“This isn’t rocket science. If 50% of wall-space isn’t totally open then THE GOVERNOR SAYS he’s out of compliance. Middletown isn’t the bad guy here, Nicholas isn’t the bad guy. The guy needlessly shutting down/destroying businesses is. Right there on the patio,” said New Jersey legislator Declan O’Scanlon.
“Hopefully Murphy will issue Executive Order-182 on Monday or Tuesday and that Order will allow indoor dining with truly reasonable and scientifically sound guidelines—not based on obscure reports out of New Zealand and China– but based on the experience of other American states and the underground indoor dining that has been happening speakeasy style in New Jersey all summer,” Gallagher, the key witness in this case wrote.
Photos below, taken by Gallagher show the restaurant does not have 50% open walls to sufficiently meet compliance of Murphy’s executive order.