TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey business community has eagerly been waiting for Governor Phil Murphy to further ease restrictive measures such as indoor dining caps, max occupancy business limits and other regulations that continue to hamper the small business economy. On Thursday, Murphy said that’s not happening any time soon.
“On indoor dining or any other steps, I think we are right now and I don’t say this with any glee, by any means, and we’re trying to be as creative as humanly possible with what we can do with our restaurants. We are in a holding pattern,” Murphy said. “I think it would be irresponsible to be otherwise right now. And again, we have the benefit, I think as a state and again, this brings me no glee as a business matter, but we didn’t go wild and open up like a lot of other states.”
Despite Murphy, his top health official Judith Persichili and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan all testifying that the rise in COVID-19 is not from gyms or indoor dining, Murphy decided to pause any further reopenings.
“We put general guidance out in June. We tweaked that as we learned more through the summer and then we reviewed, just as we did when school districts closed, we reviewed every single plan on their reopening,” Murphy said. “We’re trying like heck to get, for instance, restaurants more support. We’re still only at 25% of capacity. That’s an outlier at the low end relative to other states. And again, it gives me no joy on behalf of the restaurant business, but it also means that we have not seen, you know, Joe’s Bar and Grill with an outbreak of 23 cases, which you are seeing in other states.”
Callahan said it is not restaurants to blame for the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, but small at-home indoor parties and gatherings.
“These are happening in small gatherings, behind closed doors in private residences that aren’t as visible or as easily reported,” Callahan said. “It’s not that overcrowded restaurant or bar or nightclub. I really just would ask law enforcement throughout the state to remain vigilant on the enforcement and we just can’t rest on what we have done in the past.”
Murphy doubled down on his claim that restaurants are not the cause of the outbreak.
“There’s no evidence, and I want to repeat this. There’s no smoking gun evidence that at Restaurant X, there was an outbreak of Y people,” Murphy said. “We just don’t have that.”