TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy has bar owners on edge as he has unleashed an army of ABC inspectors to use their authority to enforce his COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. This weekend we spoke to several bar owners who feel threatened and harassed by the ABC as they swept through Ocean and Monmouth Counties searching for executive order infractions.
“It’s almost as if the governor was trying to put us all out of business,” said one Monmouth county restructure with a liquor license. “We heard the ABC was snooping around last weekend so everyone rushed to their bar, made sure they had their tape measures out and made sure tables were six feet apart and not five feet, eleven inches.”
Last week, the ABC began issuing citations and giving warnings to bars and restaurants who may or may not be violating Murphy’s restaurant executive orders that cap limits on indoor dining.
“We haven’t had a single case of COVID-19 tied to our bar,” says another Monmouth County bar owner who also requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. “We do everything by the book, but what happens if a patron forgets his mask on the way to bathroom or somebody moves a table closer, these are real concerns we have to worry about, possibly losing our license for when the ABC comes through those doors. It’s no way to run a business. We’ve been devasted by Murphy’s orders and this is just more pressure we don’t need as we struggle to keep people employed and the doors open.”
Murphy has cited on numerous occasions that bars and restaurants were not the blame for the increase in COVID-19, but he needs a scapegoat and with their reliance on state licensing and their liquor license, the restaurant industry becomes an easy target. In fact, prior to shutting down bar service, Murphy cited an instance where bar staff exposed patrons to COVID-19. It turns out that never happened, but he stuck to his lockdown anyway.