NJ Only State With Total Indoor Dining Ban; Now Restaurant Owners Plan to Fight Back


TOMS RIVER, NJ – When Americans wake up on Monday morning, they will be free to go out to breakfast anywhere they choose.  It is a freedom that has enjoyed by Americans since the first inn opened shortly after the colonies had been settled. The oldest restaurant in America in operation is claimed to be the White Horse Tavern, in Newport, Rhode Island, opened in 1673.  Except for one state, that freedom has been restored.

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On Monday, when residents of New Jersey wake up, they will be living in the only state in America that bans the act of dining inside a restaurant.   New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy blames COVID-19, a disease that has killed 15,900 people in his state. Despite his draconian shut down of restaurants, New Jersey leads America in cases and deaths per capita in America.  California, the only other state to continue the indoor dining ban will reopen on Monday in many areas of the state.

New Jersey will remain closed. It will the only state in the entire country where serving a meal inside a restaurant is illegal. Worse, Sheriff’s officers could show up and change your locks.  That happened last week in New Jersey when Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy’s officers showed up a the Lakeside Diner in Forked River with a locksmith to change the locks on owner Brian Brindisi.  Brindisi was committing the unfathomable act of serving diners inside his restaurant. Brindisi hired his own locksmith to change the locks again and reopened that day.  The next day, Murphy’s administration asked the Lacey Township mayor to use the Department of Public Works‘ employees to board up Brindisi’s restaurant.  Mayor Steve Kennis refused that order.

Murphy’s restaurant ban has done nothing to slow the rate of infection from COVID-19.  In fact, more than half of the COVID-19 victims in New Jersey are the direct result of a March 2020 order by Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichili.  The pair ordered nursing homes and veterans homes to take in sick and elderly COVID-19 patients from hospitals to prevent overloading the hospitals.

The hospitals were never overloaded, but nursing homes soon became overloaded with dead bodies.  In one case, a nursing home in New Jersey started began storing bodies in a small shed.  Makeshift morgues in longterm care facilities began filling.  The virus spread and eventually started killing the nurses and staff working in those homes.  It was out of control.

Now, with an army of 1,500 contact tracers, Murphy continues to push his agenda to keep restaurants shut down in New Jersey. There is no end in sight for the struggling industry despite not a single outbreak in any outdoor dining restaurant.  How do we know this?  Murphy doesn’t share his data with anyone unless it benefits his political agenda.  If there was an outbreak in any of the bars he has fined, restaurants he has fined or other establishments that have violated his will (executive orders), we would all know about it.

So far, the only data Murphy has released about his contact tracers is that two parties attended by teenagers had small outbreaks.  None of those teenagers died and all have since recovered from the virus.

New Jersey’s restaurant industry is dying, while Murphy continues to taunt his flawed science. It’s a science that has not saved anyone.  In fact, Murphy’s science has killed more people than it has saved since the pandemic began.

If Murphy does not reopen indoor dining, many restaurants in the state will join those that have already closed their doors for good.  The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association presented the Murphy administration with a plan to safely reopen indoor dining more than a month ago.   The administration has ignored that proposal, after all, Murphy is guiding the ship into the iceberg, with his own brand of weird science.

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“Sadly, current estimates suggest 30 percent of restaurants that make up the culture and personality of our state will close,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of NJRHA, “Hit even harder, are our state’s largest wedding venues. Their complete closure has led to a ripple effect in the industry, where professionals like photographers, videographers, florists, and musicians, to name a few, are all out of work,” she added. Late June, the governor indefinitely reversed the opening of indoor dining a few days before it was to happen. This surprising shift has resulted in heightened emotional and financial hardships for all, especially now that the midway point of summer has passed – this industry’s most robust time for partial economic recovery.”

One group of restaurant owners is now giving Murphy an ultimatum. Open restaurants before September 8th or they are opening anyway in defiance of his orders. So far 100 restaurants have joined e effort and the number is growing each day.  Attilio Guarino, owner of Ava’s Kitchen in Kennilworth has been a vocal leader in the charge to reopen indoor dining with or without Phil Murphy.

Guarino said he got the idea after seeing countless pleas on social media from other restaurant owners, begging the Governor to give them a date, a plan, or simply just a sign.  The governor has ignored the entire industry.

“We’re not looking to cause mayhem or chaos,” Guarino said.  “We’re just looking for a date. If we receive a date before the 8th we’ll step down…no date and we’re opening full force.”

Since announcing the coalition of restaurant owners, Guarino said he’s been under attack by people going as far as calling him a murderer.

“This is not about politics at all, this is about our livelihood, Guarino said. “We can’t live like this.  It is ‘do or die’ for my business and many others. We need real attention and we need to reopen our restaurants.”

Guarino said he already caught the attention of the Governor’s office as an aide for Murphy contacted him during the week.  Guarino said that aide chastised his effort, but it will not scare him away.

New Jersey, now remains the only state in America where it is illegal to dine indoors.  Most states have health and capacity restrictions. Some states maintain full closures in inner cities, but New Jersey, as of Monday morning is the only place in the United States of America where it is illegal to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a meal.

If you wish to learn more about the September 8th reopening protest, contact Guarino through his Ava’s Kitchen & Bar Facebook page.


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Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash


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