Murphy knows reducing distancing rules would be huge help to restaurants — but he won’t make change on his own

Dropping social distancing from 6 feet to 3 would allow industry to greatly increase capacity

Gov. Phil Murphy has said for weeks he was hoping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would reduce its 6-foot social distancing requirements for indoors. And, while he feels the change would dramatically help the restaurant industry, it is one he said he is not likely to take on his own.

“If you speak to a restaurateur, and we do all the time, that’s the game-changer,” Murphy said. “Having to be the vaccine police — that’s just another burden on these folks — what they really need is more capacity.”

That would come by reducing the 6-foot rule, which — in many cases — would mean making all tables available in a restaurant.

It’s something restaurants groups have been pushing for since Murphy allowed indoor dining to return last fall.

Peter Sedereas, the co-owner and operator of the Townsquare Diner in Wharton, said then that increasing the indoor capacity from 25% to 50% had virtually no impact.

“As of now, we’re set up at 25% capacity and we’re at 50 seats,” he said. “What we would gain if we went up to 50% capacity is one table with four seats. We’ll go from 50 to 54 seats.

“I think 95% of restaurants are in the same boat.”

Sedereas said restaurant floor plans are so tight traditionally that the 6-foot requirement takes close to 75% of the seats out of play.

That’s why Murphy is hoping for the reduction in social distancing rules. And, while Murphy has gone against other recommendations by keeping the indoor mask mandate, he said Monday he is not likely to go against the CDC on this.

“I had been hoping, personally, the next move on the chessboard by the CDC was reducing the 6 feet to 3,” he said.

“Are we going to do this without the CDC? I would really strongly prefer not to. I would like to think that we have a national move on that chessboard.

“To me, that is a move that they can get to sooner rather than later.”