The guidelines for what restaurants can and can't do has become more clear in recent days and weeks but many towns have already been planning ahead what what reality will look like for outdoor dining this summer as restrictions get eased and dates set for when everything can reopen.

Brick Township's Council passed an ordinance last month on what their plans for outdoor dining would be under Covid-19 restrictions and Toms River's Council followed suit with a resolution to end the month.

The Toms River resolution amends the Township Land Use Code by allowing all restaurants to submit a special event application which would allow outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas and benches at food establishments, with the $100-fee being waived for when Governor Murphy gives the okay for outdoor dining.

Toms River Council President Maria Maruca explains that they wanted to give restaurants the ability to be ready to go as restrictions get lifted.

"We took at a look at a mechanism to be able to offer outdoor dining for restaurants who have the outdoor dining or who don't have a space for outdoor dining and the special event application was the easiest vehicle we could use to get this across," Maruca tells WOBM News. "We modified it by eliminating the fee for this and the duration can be for as long as they want to put in for it, as long as it's under the Covid-19 guidelines. They can modify the application as the governor eases restrictions."

Maruca explains that this will help restaurants with whatever restrictions remain in place this summer whether it's 25 or 50 percent capacity of outdoor dining or something different.

"That might change over the course of the summer," Maruca said. "This (SEA) will allow restaurants to at least come up with a mechanism to put the dining outside."

Maruca explains that the permit has to be reviewed by the zoning office but by the police department and the fire department as well.

"Some restaurants might be in a stand alone building, some might be in a strip mall where there's fire lanes and things of that nature," Maruca said. "Everybody just wants everyone to be safe and take as many precautions as possible."

This summer will be different going to your favorite restaurants in Toms River but Maruca expects people to come back to their spots.

"The residents of Toms River and Ocean County have been great supporting the local businesses that have supported them throughout the years," Maruca said. "I think that people are also just tired of being inside and people want to be able to go and sit outside and have a meal and just get back to the normalcy of their lives."

Parking situations will be handled on a case by case basis.

SPECIAL EVENT APPLICATION PERMIT SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:

All applications must be filed in the Township of Toms River Zoning Office as follows:

1. A completed "Township of Toms River ZONING PERMIT APPLICATION".

2. The application must state the purpose and must also indicate the start date and duration.

3. The application must include a drawing depicting the size, dimensions, height, lettering, color and material of all special event signs. Applications for temporary outdoor display of goods should indicate the type, material and dimensions of the display area.

4. The application must include a survey or site plan based upon a survey marked to show the location and dimensions of all temporary outdoor display areas, tents and special event signs (banners, pennant banners, streamers, bunting; snipe signs, "A' frame signs, etc.). Drawings depicting tents must comply with Section 348-8.37 of the township, code.

5. Proposals for building mounted signs must include a drawing or photograph depicting the facade of the building and the location of the sign (s).

6. Any application for a special event at a site where multiple tenants exist (e.g. shopping center) must include a letter from the landowner or property manager approving the event.

SPECIAL EVENT APPLICATION PERMIT DURATION:

1. The duration of any permit issued under this temporary policy shall remain in effect until such time as:

i. The governor removes the restriction for said applicant's type of business;

ii. The governor changes the restrictions for said business and changes to the approved layout are requested under a replacement permit.

iii. Unforeseen issues arise from the implementation of a permit which could not be resolved with a new permitted layout or procedure.

Restaurant owners are advised to review these guidelines before submitting an application to the Zoning Office as these rules will be amended periodically consistent with Executive Orders and the laws of the State of New Jersey.

“I want to thank the Township Council for approving this resolution," Toms River Mayor Maurice "Mo" Hill said. "We believe that part of the Governor’s next phase of reopening will include restaurants and increased outdoor dining and this is the appropriate step to help them get back on their feet.”

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