The ‘new normal’ at NJ restaurants starting June 15
New Jersey restaurants and bars will be allowed to open up for outdoor dining on Monday, June 15. What does that mean for those who want to dine in person at their favorite restaurant?
Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order in March to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, limiting restaurants to takeout, curbside or delivery. When outdoor dining is available again, social-distancing protocols will be in place with all employees required to wear face coverings, tables placed a minimum of 6 feet apart with up to eight people allowed at a table, according to protocols issued by the state.
Self-service food or drink such as buffets, salad bars and self-service drink stations will not be allowed.
All shared surfaces and high-touch areas such as credit card machines will have to be disinfected between use.
And when it rains or weather don't allow for outdoor dining, eateries will have to revert to take-out and pick-up only.
For Fami Elabed, who owns Piccolo Trattoria Restaurante Italiano with his wife in Pemberton, Newtown and Doylestown, said one of their biggest challenges will be trying to stay in business while operating at only 25% capacity.
"The way we see it a challenge is how are the customers going to react? How are we going to serve them? Are we going to serve on paper plates or are we going to be serving on china," Elabed said.
"We still want to give the hospitality. We want the customers to come in and feel relaxed not to have to worry about all this again," Elabed said.
Being able to offer only curbside, takeout and delivery was also challenging for Elabed and making sure his customers were still well taken care of.
"We had to serve the customers the right way. We had to make sure they're in safe hands. That's our job. That's our duty. We've been there for 15 years. We want to give back to the community. We're all in this together not just us," Elabed said.
Marilou Halvorsen, CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, answered some quick questions about what diner can expect upon their return.
• What social distancing protocols will be in place? "6 feet between tables"
• What concerns do restaurants have about their customers? "Making sure they understand the sanitation they do to ensure their safety. Making sure guests also don't come in sick."
• Can I take my face covering off while at my table waiting for my meal? Yes
• Will I be able to drink liquor outside? Yes, as long as the restaurant got the Covid 19 Permit from the ABC.
• Will I have to call ahead? No, but it is encouraged since the number of tables will be reduced.
• Are restaurants staffed and ready to return? Yes, because it is a reduced amount.
• Are there restrictions in some towns/counties? Each town has their own restrictions.
As for indoor dining, Murphy gave some hope that indoor dining will soon be available sooner rather than later.
"Indoors, lacking ventilation, sedentary, close proximity is harder. And we have to accept that. You know, we want to get our casinos back on their feet. They have the advantage of having a big footprint of space, but I hope that we could be creative in both outdoor dining that we have and that we can get to indoor dining as soon as possible," the governor said.
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