The lack of transparency and slow-gradual reopening of the state economy by Governor Phil Murphy has drawn the ire of many residents, businesses and politicians on both sides of the aisle.

A push to safely and successfully reopen the local economy in Monmouth County began weeks ago by the Freeholder Board that includes a recent proposal by Director Tom Arnone to ask the governor to let each county in the state decide when to reopen because they know their residents best.

"We have to open up everybody but do it safely and do with a plan but we can't wait because it's becoming dangerous. What I'm pitching to the state, and I'm sure it's not going to be a popular one, is put it back into the counties hands. We know our county and we know our mayors. We're not going to make any decisions without talking to our mayors about what best fits their climate," Arnone said at a May 28 press conference.

A decision by the Murphy Administration to reopen the state can't wait so Arnone is hoping they will have a say in the reopening of their county to help spare the summer tourism season that is a huge part of their local economy.

"The people at the upper level just have to make those tough decisions but unfortunately those tough decisions can't wait. It's a short window and it needs to be made now, right now or the dangerous situation moving on after this season is going to be a lot of vacant establishments and a lot of people that are very much unemployed and in bad situations," Arnone said.

That push to reopen continued on Thursday of this week during a press briefing.

Daycares and non-essential retail with limited occupancy and restaurants and bars for outdoor dining only are re-opening on June 15, but Arnone is looking for more to open fast.

“While I am glad that restaurants will be permitted to open for outdoor dining next week, we cannot ignore the fact that this isn’t enough,” Arnone said on Thursday. “There are numerous restaurants that will not have an option to provide outdoor dining or can only provide it for a few tables. How are these restaurants going to be able to stay in business? 

“I understand the challenges that members of our small business community are facing. Since the beginning of the declared State of Emergency by the Governor, I have been holding regular meetings with our Mayors and Chambers of Commerce to work with them on a reopening plan.  We presented this plan to the Governor in the hopes that he would allow for a quicker reopening to give our businesses a chance to survive.

Opening restaurants for outdoor dining is a—very small—step in the right direction, but there will be days when it is raining or too hot to eat outdoors. We are already seeing thousands of restaurants throughout the State close, which is completely unacceptable. As I have said countless times, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Big Box retail does not drive the economy, small business does! They support our economy and we all need to do our part to support them.

Restaurants need to be allowed to open their doors back to their patrons and allow at least 50% capacity if we want them to survive.

The Governor has said many times that he commends New Jersey residents for doing the right thing and taking the right precautions, so let these restaurant owners do just that.

Provide them with the guidance and then let them open their doors. Governor, give our small businesses a chance before it’s too late!” 

The Asbury Park City Council grew tired of waiting for Governor Murphy to allow for indoor dining and voted the other night to let restaurants open for that service beginning on June 15 with a 25-percent capacity limit which is the same requirement for non-essential retail businesses that are reopening this coming Monday.

The resolution voted on by the council this week permits restaurants to offer outdoor dining on the sidewalks, parking lots and adjoining properties.

It also allows the city to block traffic on portions of Cookman, Emory, Mattison, Prospect, Comstock, Ocean, Third and Fifth avenues for outdoor dining, retail and recreation.

The vote also has the backing of Monmouth County Freeholder Director Arnone and the county.

"This shutdown has critically impacted the livelihoods of our small business community and I’m proud to see local leaders take the side of small businesses. I know the businesses will continue to make the health and safety of their patrons and employees their top priority," Arnone said.

Monmouth County Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso is also supporting the city's resolution.

"Allowing indoor gatherings but not allowing restaurants to open is shortsighted," DiMaso said on Twitter. "Many restaurants will never reopen, and that is just not right!"

On a separate note during Thursday's press conference Arnone also asked the State to release guidelines for reopening schools to allow for in-person special education.

“For nearly three months, these children have been without these programs that are essential to their well-being. These extended school year programs are instrumental in helping these children maintain structure and routine in their lives. We need an answer from the State now on when these programs can resume so that the schools can plan and know the guidelines they will need to follow,” Arnone said. “As a board member for the Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children alongside Sheriff Shaun Golden and many others, I understand that this is extremely important for our special needs community and their families. The set back is detrimental to the progress they have made."

Previous reporting by Dan Alexander was used in this report.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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