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April 11, 2021

N.J. to offer $35 million to food, beverage establishments slammed by COVID-19 pandemic

Restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries with no more than 50 employees will qualify for a grant from the state

Restaurants Coronavirus
N.J. restaurants COVID-19 Rod Long/Unsplash

Restaurants and bars in New Jersey are permitted to fill no more than 50% capacity for indoor dining service.

Certain restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries across New Jersey that have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for additional aid as many seek to expand their indoor and outdoor dining services to customers.

New Jersey will provide $35 million in federal COVID-19 relief to struggling food and beverage establishments across the state with no more than 50 employees, according to legislation signed into law Friday by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“For the past year, our restaurants have fought the good fight, and we know that fight has not been easy,” Murphy said. “This legislation will provide a much-needed lifeline to small business owners, who, through no fault of their own, have been devastated by this pandemic.”

The funding will be distributed through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which will be required to establish rules regarding eligibility for and size of the available grants.

State officials said that the grants will help food and beverage establishments safely reopen amid the public health crisis and help restore jobs that were previously lost.

The bill passed both houses of the state legislature last month with unanimous bipartisan support.

Among the legislation's primary sponsors included Assembly Members Lou Greenwald (D-Burlington/Camden) and Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic).

"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 19,000 food and beverage establishments throughout New Jersey, with restaurants employing nearly 8 percent of the workers in our state,” the Assembly co-sponsors said in a statement. 

“The public health emergency has taken a significant toll on this industry, which so many of us benefit from and enjoy. We must provide support to these establishments to help them get through this crisis and allow them to employ New Jerseyans while continuing to serve residents and visitors alike for years to come.”

The legislation is part of a five bill, $100 million effort by New Jersey to support small businesses across the state that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has already dedicated $15 million to helping arts and cultural institutions across New Jersey stay afloat amid the public health crisis.

Since last month, indoor dining service at restaurants and bars has been permitted at 50% capacity across the state. 

Indoor dining resumed in New Jersey last September at 25% capacity after being shut down for nearly six months. It initially was slated to resume in early July, but officials postponed the plan after COVID-19 cases spiked in other states that had reopened restaurants.

As COVID-19 cases spiked again last November, Murphy ordered restaurants to shut down indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and to restrict bar seating. The measure also impacted clubs, lounges and casinos.

The state then lifted its curfew on indoor dining service and increased occupancy limits at restaurants to 35% in February. Bar seating, however, remains banned across the state due to the close proximity between customers and staff.

New Jersey has allowed outdoor dining service since last June. Restaurants across the state that wish to expand their outdoor dining service footprint to public spaces and sidewalks have been permitted to do so since February.

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