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August 31, 2020

New Jersey resuming indoor dining Friday with some restrictions in place

Movie theaters also reportedly set to reopen

Government Restaurants
new jersey indoor dining Shirota Yuri/

Indoor dining has been prohibited in New Jersey since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will return on Labor Day weekend.

Effective 6 a.m. Friday morning, New Jersey restaurants can resume indoor dining services for the first time in nearly six months. 

It's a long-anticipated milestone for one of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, though it will come with numerous restrictions that Gov. Phil Murphy says will "ensure this step is done properly to prevent the kind of spikes we saw in other states."

Restaurants must limit capacity to 25% and parties must be capped at eight people per table. Tables must be kept six feet apart to adhere to social distancing. Face masks must be worn by patrons when not eating or drinking, as well as by restaurant staff at all times. Visitors who don't wear a face mask will be refused service.

Food and beverages can only be ordered and consumed while seated at a table. Only wait staff can bring food and beverages to customers. Patrons are prohibited from ordering more food or drinks from the bar if already seated at a table. 

Restaurants that provide food service at the bar may allow customers to eat at the bar as long as social distancing is enforced. No more than four individuals can sit together at a bar.

Windows must be kept open to ensure sufficient flow of fresh air into the dining areas. Air conditioning units must be turned so that they're allowing for the maximum amount of outdoor air to be brought into the dining area.

"We’ve been working hard for several months to get to this point," Murphy said. "Our job now is to ensure that this reopening only leads to future announcements expanding the indoor capacity limits, and that we do not have to take a step backward. Everyone must pull together."

Movie theaters and other indoor performance venues, which have been closed since the coronavirus outbreak surged in March, also will be permitted to reopen ahead of the Labor Day weekend. 

Face masks must be worn at all times unless eating or drinking. Social distancing is mandatory. Capacity in each showing and theater must be kept at the lesser of either 25% or 150 people.

Additionally, the indoor gatherings limit for events such as religious services, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and political activities has been increased to the lesser of either 25% capacity or 150 people. The capacity limit was previously set at no more than 100 people or 25% of a room's capacity — whichever number was lower.

"We’re able to take so many steps forward today because of the hard work millions of you have done to keep pushing down our health metrics," Murphy said. "But we can’t let up on our vigilance even one bit. Let’s all be safe and responsible."

Indoor dining initially was slated to resume in early July, but it was postponed indefinitely as COVID-19 cases spiked in other states that had reopened restaurants. 

Murphy hinted last week that indoor dining could resume soon. In the meantime, restaurants have been permitted to offer takeout and delivery service. The state has allowed outdoor dining since June.

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