SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ – As summer heated up at the Jersey Shore and across all over New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy announced that he would reopen indoor dining in time for the Fourth of July weekend, but then backed out of it. The news for New Jersey restaurateurs came a day late and tens of thousands of dollars short as thousands of businesses stocked their inventory with fresh food and liquor to get through what could have been their busiest weekend of the year. It became known as the “False Start”.
A bill in Trenton, passed by a bi-partisan legislature would have helped businesses recoup as much as $30,000,000 in losses for the weekend. Businesses ended up with too much food, much of it going unused. Murphy canceled indoor dining 3 days before the Fourth of July weekend.
When the bill showed up on Murphy’s desk to be signed into law, the Governor decided to veto the bill. The bi-partisan bill was sponsored by Democrats Steve Sweeney and Vin Gopal, and Republican Anthony Bucco.
The same day as the veto, Murphy announced that there’s no plan to increase the indoor dining cap from 25% to 50%, despite suggesting it several times in the past few COVID-19 briefings he has held.
“Listen, we’re working, we’re wargaming, I was part of a pretty intense discussion today about steps we could take to help our restaurant industry, particularly as the weather gets colder,” Murphy said on Monday. “I would be lying to you if I didn’t say, and I think the folks to my right who are the health experts and the guy to my left who helps enforce compliance, these numbers are sobering, I have to say. So we are wargaming a whole lot of potential steps that we can take, whether it’s indoor or outdoor or both dining to try to relieve some of this burden without adding to our already rising numbers.”
Murphy admitted that indoor dining has not contributed at all to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
“I have to say, we don’t have any evidence that indoor dining per se is contributing to this. But we also have to be pretty — and your question gets to this — we not only have to help our restaurants, but we’ve got to, I think, be consistent in the plea for responsibility among the citizenry,” he added. “We don’t want to cross purposes on those.”
Bringing diners indoors during winter is critical to the success of many businesses as the weather gets colder and the raw New Jersey winter sets in. In many cases, outdoor dining will not be an option for many restaurants and a 50% capacity increase is still not enough to save the hard-hit industry.
Ann Gauthier, the owner of the Toms River based Shut Up and Eat! lashed out at the governor for his decisions to continue to cripple the food industry in the state.
Gauthier said whether she’s at 25% or 50%, she has to have the same amount of workers and is working hard to keep her employees on the job…and isn’t about to let the Governor put her out of business.
“I will not fail because I was growing up never to give up I don’t give two shits with that piece of crap governor says or does he does nothing to help small business because he is very wealthy so he doesn’t care about anybody but himself he’s a typical politician,” she said.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money for the restaurant, and has raised almost $9,000.