Outdoor dining is here to stay. Or, at least, it is for two more years.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed a bill to extend expanded permissions for restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries to use fixtures and equipment enabling them to serve patrons outdoors in private areas, on sidewalks and in other municipally designated outdoor areas.
The permissions, many of which came about during the COVID-19 pandemic, were set to expire Nov. 30, but will now be extended by two additional years to support the food and beverage industry and local communities it serves.
One of the positives from the pandemic was finding more outdoor eating areas — and loosening the restrictions for them — after the governor authorized municipalities to enable the expansion of outdoor dining. Many business owners have continued to offer outdoor dining since beginning to offer outdoor seating during the summer of 2020.
“Supporting the success of our small businesses ultimately means supporting the success of our communities,” Murphy said. “Continuing this successful practice will not only benefit small business owners, but also the many patrons who have come to enjoy the atmosphere and opportunities outdoor dining offers.”
The governor signed the bill at Vesta Wood-Fired, an East Rutherford restaurant that received a grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority as part of the state’s small business emergency assistance program to support New Jersey businesses during the pandemic.
The bill was applauded by a number of elected officials and business leaders, including:
- EDA CEO Tim Sullivan: “Extending the ability of restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries to continue to serve additional patrons at their outside facilities will not only financially benefit these businesses, but will also help grow the economy as new positions are created to meet additional demand.”
- State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge): “Outdoor dining was a vital lifeline for restaurants and bars that experienced severe financial hardship during the pandemic. It allows local businesses to stay afloat, to keep their employees on the payroll and to generate economic activity that brings life to communities throughout the state. Their hard times are not over, as they continue to face challenges during difficult times. We can now extend a practice that has proven to be successful for business owners and employees and very popular with patrons.”
- Luis de la Hoz, chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey: “Serving patrons outdoors allowed us to increase capacity up to 30% more, reduce waiting times, offer a different atmosphere, help reduce transmission of COVID-19, and help us recuperate losses due to the pandemic. Extending these permissions will help us get back on our feet after this arduous battle.”