Jersey Shore freeholder to Murphy: Reopen indoor dining

Indoor dining amid coronavirus pandemic

Jamie Ferrell serves customers at Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant Monday, April 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone is pleading with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen indoor dining, which has been shuttered since the coronavirus outbreak began in March.

While restaurants with outdoor space have endured, without indoor dining, it might be “too late” for some restaurant owners, he said.

“There are too many dining establishments that are not able to open for outdoor dining and they have been forced to remain closed or rely solely on take-out and delivery sales to get by,” Arnone said in a prepared statement. “It is incredibly unfair that they continue to wait for clearance to reopen for indoor dining and are given no inkling as to when that will be.”

In late June, Murphy hit pause on allowing indoor dining. The governor said the combination of coronavirus case spikes in other states, “the instances of knucklehead behavior” at some Garden State establishments, and the danger of sedentary indoor activity without masking drove his decision.

In his statement, Arnone acknowledged Murphy’s concern for public health but said that restaurants can provide a safe environment.

“Outdoor dining has been open since June 15 and there have been no outbreaks among customers at any of the establishments — not one! This clearly demonstrates that our business community understands the consequences of not adhering to the safety guidelines,” he said.

Arnone said that restaurants need to reopen indoor dining with at least 50% capacity before the summer ends.

At Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, Murphy expressed worry that an increasing number of cases are being traced to indoor house parties, adding that they endanger the restart of other indoor activities.

“Indoor gatherings with close proximity, no face coverings have got to come to an end if we want to get to the things that we all want to get to, which are the indoor dining experience with parameters, to get back to going to movie theaters, whatever it might be, to ensure that we do have high school sports in the fall,” he said.

Murphy has not said when indoor dining can restart. “I hope it’s sooner than later,” he said on Monday.

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