Murphy’s 25% Indoor Dining Restriction Still Crushing the Small Guys

NEW EGYPT, NJ – Few restaurants are celebrating over New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining with 25% capacity.  Many are now saying, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the governor.  That’s because other restrictions imposed on restaurants such as the six-foot table spacing make it impossible for many small delis, fast food restaurants and cafes to be able to financially survive with just one or two tables indoors.   While the 25% capacity limit might help bring in a few more customers, it’s not enough to cheer about.

Waiters and waitresses need to be paid, busboys and back end kitchen help would be needed and in many cases, it’s just not economically feasible for smaller venues to reopen at 25% capacity.

One such restaurant is New Egypt’s Sweet Carolina BBQ.

“Although the governor has decided to finally open up indoor dining on Friday, it’s only at 25% capacity which would be barely any customers in our situation. We will not be offering indoor dining until the percent of customers allowed is upped to at least 50%,” the restaurant said. “We apologize about this and hope the governor will be changing this rule in our favor in the very near future.”

It’s not just the small guys.  Today the New Jersey Hospitality Restaurant Association said 25% indoor dining capacity will continue to put more restaurants, banquet halls and other hospitality-based businesses out of business before the end of 2020.  The continued restrictions against restaurants have a much broader impact on industries that rely on a thriving hospitality industry.

“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,” the NJHRA said.  “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.”

The association said Murphy continues to penalize small business owners for actions of others.

“Recently an uptick in COVID-19 cases, the highest since early June has been attributed by the governor as a result of indoor house parties and other unruly gatherings hosted by young people, where masks or social distancing were not adhered,” the NJRA said.

No reported cases of COVID-19 or outbreaks have been reported by the Governor’s army of contact tracers from the restaurant industry to date.

There are 19,050 restaurants in New Jersey and that number is dwindling each day.   The industry employs 348,000 workers and generates $18.1 billion annually.

This week, the National Restaurant Association is once again urging people to visit their favorite restaurants, especially those once again offering indoor dining and have launched a new media advertising campaign to support restaurants across the country.

“While diners have been able to enjoy some restaurant meals through take-out and delivery, we all have missed hearing the words, ‘Your table is ready,’ and the unique experiences that dining out provides,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “We know safety is top of mind for returning diners — it’s top of mind for us as well — so, the ad pairs the familiar sights and sounds with new visual safety cues, including servers wearing masks and the ServSafe Dining Commitment door decal.”

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