NJ movie theater, diner open up in defiance of Murphy order
Two more New Jersey businesses have gone public with their defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders — a movie theater and diner that have both opened before the state's allowing either.
Theaters have been closed since March, when Murphy issued an executive order that shut down or restricted most entertainment, dining and retail business, in hopes of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Restaurants have been limited to takeout and curbside business only. Restaurants will be allowed to offer outdoor dining on June 15, but Murphy has not said when indoor dining might resume, and suggested in general indoor services would be slower to reopen.
The Tilton Square Theatre in Northfield couldn't wait and reopened on Friday, according to its Facebook page.
"We believe the 'intermission' we’ve undergone can safely be over. We’re flashing the lights," the theater wrote. It cited CDCs guidelines that state in phase one of a recovery, large venues can operate with strict physical distancing protocols.
The theater said it has installed sneeze guards at its concession stands; it requires customers to sit 6 feet apart, although groups that come in together can sit together and theater chairs are sanitized before and after each screening. Face coverings can be removed while movie-goers are seated.
Co-owners Clint Bunting and Brett Denafo told the Press of Atlantic City they used up their federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to keep their employees on the job, but the funds ran out on Thursday.
Northfield police showed up at the theater but did not issue a summons or ticket, but showed them a copy of the governor's executive order, Bunting and Denafo told the Press.
Bunting and Denafo have not yet return New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.
Brian Brindisi, owner of the Lakeside Diner in the Forked River section of Lacey, told New Jersey 101.5 he was inspired to open for indoor dining on June 1 after attending a rally of business owners on Monday of the Memorial Day weekend in Point Pleasant Beach.
He said he believes Murphy has gone "too far" with his executive order, and that customers should be able to decide if they want to eat indoors at a restaurant.
"It should be their choice at this point. If they want to come out, they want to sit inside and dine, we want to leave that to the customer. I'm not the kind of guy who tries to draw a stance between the government. I'm a veteran, I served this country and I feel it's my right. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says we're allowed," Brindisi said.
The 14th Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person life, liberty or property without due process of law.
The Navy veteran used the down time to remodel the diner to be what he called "covid compliant."
"Even our employees, when they walk in the door, we have our temperatures taken, we wear masks, we wear gloves, seating is very limited with six foot spaces inside. We've gone over the top to make sure our community is safe when you do come in," Brinisi said.
There is a sign at the entrance to let customers know about the new protocols in place and Brindisi said there is sanitizer "everywhere" inside the diner.
Lacey police Lt. Christopher Kenny came by on Thursday to talk and then issued a summons, according to Brinisi. He described Kenny as a "complete gentleman." No additional summons have been issued but Brinisi is expecting more.
Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, which defied the governor's executive order in May stopped by the Lakeside Diner on Sunday to show support. rindisi also has enlisted their attorney Jim Mermigis who is representing several other businesses that have opened despite the executive order.
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