MIDDLETOWN, NJ – It was been ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ for Governor Phil Murphy since he began shutting down New Jersey businesses and it didn’t change when it came time to reopen them. After dining at one of his favorite restaurants in his neighborhood, Nicholas Barrel & Roost, which was illegally serving guests indoors, Murphy reversed course. This came after a backlash by the restaurant industry and a threat by hundreds of businesses to open with or without him on September 8th.
Today, Murphy said he will announce the reopening of indoor dining this Friday.
“Restaurants statewide will be able to open for indoor dining beginning this FRIDAY at 25% capacity and with social distancing between tables,” Murphy said today on social media. “Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19.”
Nicholas Harary, owner of the restaurant challenged the governor’s interpretation of his own executive order. Murphy gave Harary a pass and didn’t seek punitive measures against his friend’s restaurant. This set off a firestorm on social media and restaurant owners became enraged that the governor was once again picking winners and losers.
Murphy’s visit to the restaurant was exposed by Monmouth County blogger Art Gallagher, editor of More Monmouth County Musings.
For some businesses, the news comes too little too late as hundreds of restaurants have closed their doors across the state, many, at the danger point of shutting their doors for good.
Attilio Guarino, owner of Ava’s Kitchen in Kennilworth organized a plan to have restaurants reopen with or without the governor, but now that won’t be necessary. The news isn’t completely comforting for Guarino who said right now, it’s do or die for the future of his restaurant.
“There has been no support for the restaurant industry,” he said. “We got the PPP loan which helped us pay for employee payroll for eight weeks when there was no business. We got to keep our employees paid, but it didn’t help the business at all. It was just a very bad time for that.”
Vito Cucci, the owner of several banquet facilities including Naninas, Park Savoy and Park Chateau said he had tried many times to reach out to Governor Murphy through Marilou Halvorson at the New Jersey Restaurant Association and through local legislators, but they were never given an answer or a plan for a path towards reopening.
New Jersey today is the only state in America that has a statewide ban on indoor dining and will be that way for the next five days.
Photo by Art Gallagher, More Monmouth County Musings.