After more than two months of curbside pickup, restaurants will finally get the chance to welcome customers back to the table, albeit outdoors. Monday Gov. Phil Murphy announced restaurants can reopen on June 15 with restrictions.
“So it’s going to be capacity, social distancing, markers on the ground, maybe some Plexiglas stuff, and I would think restaurants with outdoor dining will have some of the elements that we’ve spoken to — social distancing, the distance between tables, pardon me, probably temperature checks or something like that on the way in, masks, gloves of employees,” Murphy said at Monday’s daily press briefing.
Some restaurant owners, like Mexico Grill’s Ivan Alvarez, say they’re already expanding safety measures. He says while he’s excited to offer his customers outdoor dining, he says his biggest concern now is liability.
“I cannot afford to get sick, I cannot afford to have my employees get sick. I can’t afford to have my customers get sick. So we’ll take it as it go,” he said.
Reopened restaurants also bring job opportunities for those left unemployed by the pandemic. One worker, who only wanted to be identified as Jason, says his livelihood depends on the June 15 reopening.
“When they open at patio and at 50%, anything below that will be very tough and then going higher and higher. But it all depends on, you know, people feeling comfortable to come out. So yeah, I’m prepared to see my income slashed probably in half, we’ll see,” Jason said.
“About 85% of restaurant employees were laid off. That probably attributes a lot to the amount of people right now that are on unemployment,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
She added that filling up restaurants, even at slashed capacity, is crucial to the state’s financial health.
“What’s happening now is unsafe. You have situations all over the Jersey Shore where people are getting their takeout and they don’t have anywhere to sit,” Halvorsen said. “If they find a table they’re all congregating together and there is no staff to clean it. We encouraging the governor to let us open up this Friday, instead of Monday, because that is just one more weekend that our small business community is going to lose.”
Also included in Phase 2 are the rereopening of hair salons and barbershops on June 22. There still is no word on when gyms and health clubs will reopen.