N.J. awarded injunction, Asbury Park prohibited from allowing indoor dining (UPDATED)

Indoor dining will not be allowed in Asbury Park, after all.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy late Friday afternoon issued an injunction, blocking the municipality’s ordinance that would have allowed indoor dining beginning Monday.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who signed an executive order allowing outdoor dining beginning Monday, said earlier Friday the state had failed in its attempts to reach an agreement with Asbury Park officials and was forced to go to court to uphold his executive order.

State officials did not immediately issue a comment.

Former Attorney General Chris Porrino, now a partner at Lowenstein Sandler, predicted this outcome earlier Friday.

Chris Porrino of Lowenstein Sandler.

“The statute the governor is operating under — the Disaster Control Act — affords him a very wide berth in which to navigate and do what he believes is in the public interest,” he said.

“In light of that broad grant of authority and the fact that safety protocols are perhaps more art than science at this point, the governor has the upper hand legally and likely will be sustained in his effort to enforce statewide standards. Otherwise, there would be a patchwork of rules being implemented from town to town which, the Attorney General will argue, is unworkable and less safe.

“Asbury Park should consider this reality as its leadership decides its next move.”

Murphy, who has come under increasing scrutiny regarding what the administration allows and doesn’t allow, vigorously defending his actions at his daily COVID-19 briefing Friday.

“There’s a method to what we’re doing here, folks, in many respects,” he said. “(We’re) not just relying on the data and the notion that public health creates economic health.

“We’re taking steps in small batches so that we’ve got some amount of controlled variables that (we) can look at. If we took 10 steps on Monday and we had a flareup, it would be very hard to figure out which one of those steps led to that flareup.”

Murphy used a regular phrase — “sooner rather than later” — when saying the state will get to indoor dining. He also said he hopes to have an announcement in “a week or so” regarding the opening of casinos.

The problem, Murphy said, is indoor versus outdoor — pointing to the fact that the state has not seen a flareup in cases since it opened its beaches and allowed for protests.

Murphy said there’s no question that the virus is multiples more dangerous inside than outside.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” he said.


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