Outdoor alcohol service allowed to continue through March

Murphy says administration is trying to help struggling restaurant industry

The restaurant industry has taken a heavy blow. Since March, dining capacity and COVID regulations have forced many establishments to lay off staff, change up their menus or even close permanently. Gov. Phil Murphy sees these concerns and addressed them Monday, with the state’s COVID numbers on the rise.

“I would be lying to you if I didn’t say … these (case) numbers are sobering,” he said. “We are war-gaming a whole lot of potential steps that we can take, whether it’s indoor or outdoor or both dining to try and relieve some of this burden without adding to our already-rising numbers.”

As a measure to try and help the restaurant industry further, Murphy also announced that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is extending special outdoor liquor license permits through March 2021. When applying, restaurants only have to pay a $10 fee.

Despite promises like these from the administration, many within the industry are still frustrated that indoor dining capacity has not been increased since the initial go-ahead for 25%. While Murphy sees these frustrations, he assures restaurateurs that his team is doing everything possible to keep businesses afloat.

“We’re trying to do everything we can,” he said. “Whether it’s literally cash on the barrel from coronavirus relief funds distributed through the (New Jersey Economic Development Administration), extending the (permits) for six months … whether it’s indoor or outdoor dining, we are trying to do everything we can.”

While the administration continues to fight, Murphy again emphasized the importance of individual behavior.

“We’re looking at community spread right now in a lot of different areas in the state,” Murphy explained. “We’ll say it again: it’s going to be up to all of us individually to do the right things, particularly when you’re in a private setting that we can’t regulate.”

Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:

Health metrics

New Jersey again topped the mark of 1,000 new cases in a day Monday, with 1,192 total cases now being confirmed to be from COVID-19-related complications. This brings the statewide total to 221,205 cases.

Five different counties reported more than 100 new cases: Ocean (154), Essex (132), Union (109), Middlesex (108) and Bergen (103). Other counties continue to have rising case numbers that are concerning, as Monmouth has reported 84 cases, and Camden and Hudson are reporting 75 and 78, respectively.

Four more deaths have now been confirmed to be from COVID-19, which puts the statewide total since March at 14,425. Another 1,789 deaths are still considered “probable,” while there were another 16 deaths in hospitals Sunday that are awaiting lab confirmation.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 758 (579 confirmed cases, 179 under investigation);
  • In ICU: 166;
  • On ventilators: 62;
  • Rate of transmission: 14;
  • Positivity rate: 36% (from Oct. 15).

Veterans Affairs

The governor announced that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will be providing additional clinical staff to assist at veterans’ homes across the state.

“The staff support began this morning and will continue for at least four weeks,” Murphy said. “As we begin to transition to new leadership at our veterans’ homes, these additional hands will play an essential role.”

Murphy is referring to his office’s announcement last week that the top executives of the Paramus and Menlo Park veterans’ homes, as well as their bosses at the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, were ousted. These departures come after 190 residents have died from COVID-19 between these two homes alone.

Murphy had no further comment on the situation.

Final word

Murphy on the New York Stock Exchange‘s threat to move its New Jersey data center in response to recent debate on a tax on electronic trades:

“I’ve addressed the New York Stock Exchange before. We’ve had, I thought, constructive discussions, in my case with Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. They expressed their concerns. I can’t read their minds, but the fact that we are at an hour of need — this is not a ‘forever and always’ consideration. I think our side of the argument is also reasonable. We shall see. This is something we still are studying and we still like what we see, but it’s complicated.”

Read more from ROI-NJ: