Business organizations roundly criticize Murphy for pause on indoor dining

Experience fine dining at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club.

Business leaders and organizations around the state criticized Gov. Phil Murphy for his decision on Monday to pause indoor dining “indefinitely.”

The organizations had a number of complaints, namely:

  • They said it came too close to the planned implementation (Thursday) — and after restaurants had made purchases for product.
  • They said they wish the state had punished the limited number of establishments that did not comply with guidelines, rather than impacting all restaurants.

Some of the statements:

Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association:

“The most devastated sector of our economy took another body blow today, when Gov. Murphy announced the indefinite postponement of indoor dining in New Jersey. Announced only 48 hours prior to the planned reopen date, and based solely on supposition and anticipation, this change will cause even more restaurants to fail.

“Many restaurants owners spent thousands of dollars ordering food, hiring back employees, and aligning indoor safety practices in preparation for reopening indoor dining prior to Fourth of July weekend. Some owners even used personal credit cards in hopes of regaining ground.

“We shouldn’t sentence an entire industry because of unprepared states and the bad acts of some bar operators. We have said repeatedly that, unlike other business sectors, the restaurant community must meet the highest standards of sanitation. Patrons and employees can expect a safe and healthy experience. We just need support so we can do our job.”

Eileen Kean, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business:

“Restaurant owners spent money they don’t have after months of shutdowns with limited revenue to buy food and bring back more employees to be ready for indoor dining around the Fourth of July. Instead of causing more financial turmoil, why didn’t the governor take enforcement actions against bad actors instead who weren’t requiring face coverings or distancing?

“We want to see the science that justifies this knee-jerk reaction that appears to be based on our governor’s observations and his worry about what he’s hearing about in other states. If there is a data-based risk, then let’s break the state down by county or region as New York and Pennsylvania have done to prevent at least some restaurants from permanent closure by offering a reasonable balance.”

The New Jersey Business Coalition, a group of more than 100 leading business and nonprofit groups throughout the state (named at bottom):

“New Jersey business owners have said from the beginning of this crisis that they always put the health, safety and welfare of their workforce and their patrons first. The reopening of indoor dining at New Jersey restaurants is no exception.

“While we respect the fact that other states are seeing a surge in COVID numbers, such a comparison, along with the concern of so-called ‘knuckleheads’ not following the rules, is simply not a basis to pull back on New Jersey restaurant owners who are committed to doing the right thing.

“In response to the governor’s original notice that indoor dining could commence on July 2 at 25% capacity, New Jersey restaurant owners made plans. We should recognize they invested in interior changes to their facilities, notified staff they can come back to work and spent considerable dollars to purchase food and beverages in order to meet the demands of the customers they were ready to serve.

“Many restaurant owners have not generated the revenue to pay for these startup expenses over the past 15 weeks, and, therefore, dug deep into their own personal pockets to restart their business.

“Respectfully, we ask: Who is going to reimburse these lost costs? Food, now at premium prices, has a very short shelf life. Additionally, how many times will restaurant owners be asked to train up a workforce only to send them back to unemployment?

“On top of all this, the governor vetoed a bill this week that would have established an emergency loan program for qualified small hospitality businesses, using federal funds. Now, as a ripple effect, we see some of our Atlantic City casinos refusing this weekend to open due to this pause. This represents another blow to our tourism industry and New Jersey’s overall economy, which relies on casino revenues to fund important state programs.

“These businesses were willing to face insurmountable odds of surviving, while operating safely at 25% capacity. They know the losses that continue to rack up and they were, and are, ready to follow the rules and demand that their patrons do the same.

“As of earlier this month, between 20-23% of New Jersey restaurants that are shuttered will not reopen. With this false start, that number will undoubtedly escalate.

“We urge Gov. Murphy not to pull back on those businesses that are able and willing to reopen safely because of bad actors. If some are not in compliance, enforce the order and hold them accountable. For the rest, let them open, as originally planned.”

The members of the NJ business coalition:

  • African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
  • American Camp Association NY/NJ
  • American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey
  • American Physical Therapy Association of New Jersey
  • Bernards Township Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Cape May County Chamber of Commerce
  • Capital Region Minority Chamber of Commerce
  • Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia
  • Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey
  • Chemistry Council of New Jersey
  • Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey
  • Downtown New Jersey
  • Early Childhood Education Advocates
  • Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Fuel Merchants Associates of New Jersey
  • Garden State Pharmacy Owners
  • Global Business Alliance
  • Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Hoboken Chamber of Commerce
  • Home Health Services Association of New Jersey
  • Hudson County Chamber of Commerce
  • Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce
  • Insurance Council of New Jersey
  • Jersey Shore Partnership
  • Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Marine Trades Association of New Jersey
  • Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Meadowlands Chamber
  • Monmouth Ocean Development Council
  • Morris County Chamber of Commerce
  • NAIOP-NJ
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • Newark Regional Business Partnership
  • New Jersey Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons
  • New Jersey Bankers Association
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association
  • New Jersey Campground Owners and Outdoor Lodging Association
  • New Jersey Camps Government Affairs Project
  • New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers
  • New Jersey Concrete and Aggregate Association
  • New Jersey Dental Association
  • New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association
  • New Jersey Hotel and Lodging Industry Association
  • New Jersey Independent Electrical Contractors Association
  • New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commerce
  • New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program
  • New Jersey Motor Truck Association
  • New Jersey Pharmacists Association
  • New Jersey Podiatric Medical Society
  • New Jersey Realtors
  • New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association
  • New Jersey Retail Merchants Association
  • New Jersey Salon and Spa Coalition
  • New Jersey Self Insurers Association
  • New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants
  • New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce
  • New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce
  • New Jersey Tourism & Industry Association
  • New Jersey Utilities Association
  • New Jersey Warehousemen & Movers Association
  • North Jersey Jewish Business Alliance
  • Ocean City Chamber of Commerce
  • Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Recreational Fishing Alliance
  • Salem County Chamber of Commerce
  • Somerset County Business Partnership
  • Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce
  • Sussex County Chamber of Commerce
  • The United Boatmen of New Jersey
  • Union Township Chamber of Commerce

Read more from ROI-NJ: