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September 04, 2020

New Jersey lays out rules for indoor dining; Gov. Murphy says 'we will not tolerate any violations'

The state was the last in the U.S. to allow diners back inside restaurants in some capacity

Restaurants COVID-19
indoor dining new jersey Lieuwe Terpstra/Unsplash

New Jersey allowed restaurant, bars and other eateries to resume indoor dining on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. Establishments are restricted to operate at 25% capacity indoors.

Indoor dining resumed in New Jersey on Friday with a set of rules intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It marked the first time since March that diners could be seated inside restaurants, bars, cafeterias and food courts.

New Jersey officials released a summary of the rules business owners and they employees will need to follow or face punishment from state officials. Headed into the Labor Day weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy expressed how serious he was about the need to restaurants to follow these rules.

"We will not tolerate any violations, and we will not be afraid to come down hard and make an example of those who think the rules don’t apply to them," he said.

New Jersey was the last state in the country to allow indoor dining to return in some capacity. The state had originally planned to reintroduce indoor dining, with restaurants limiting their capacities to 25%, on July 2. Then COVID-19 cases spiked in the state and video and photos surfaced of people not wearing face masks and not social distancing at outdoor Jersey Shore bars just before that date, and Murphy put those plans on hold indefinitely

Below are the rules the owners of restaurants, bars and other eateries will need to follow – along with their employees and their customers.

For Indoor Dining: 

• The number of patrons will be limited to 25% of the establishment's indoor capacity, excluding employees.
• Only eight customers are permitted per table, unless the group is a family or from the same household. Parties must be seated at least 6 feet apart.
• Customers must be seated to consume food or beverages.
• Face coverings are required while inside restaurants and bars, except when eating or drinking at a table.
• At restaurants and bars with table service, guests must be seated to place and receive orders.
• Windows or doors should be kept open when possible, and fans utilized, to improve ventilation.

For Employees:

• Employees must wash their hands when arriving at work.
• Health checks, such as temperature screenings or symptom checking, should be conducted daily on employees.
• Employees with symptoms of COVID-19 must be sent home.
• Face coverings are required for all employees, except when doing so would inhibit the person's health, or if it would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute tasks, such as cooks who work near open flames.
• All employees must be provided with face coverings and gloves free of charge, and sanitation materials, like hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, must be provided to staff.
• Break times for hand-washing must be provided during the work day .
• Employees should be encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.

For Outdoor Dining:

• Seating is limited to eight customers per table, unless members of the group are from a family from the same household, and parties must be seated at least 6 feet apart.
• Reservations should be encouraged for greater control of customer traffic. To facilitate contact tracing, customers should provide a phone numbers when making reservations.
• Public should not be able to access dance floors.
• Alternatives to paper and physical menus should be used, such as whiteboards, electronic menus 
• Hand sanitizer must be provided for all customers.
• Customers entering the indoor portion of a restaurant or bar must wear face coverings, unless a customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child younger than two).
• Groups must stay 6 feet apart, even in areas where groups are not assigned seating.

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