Clad is masks and keeping their distance, about 60 restaurant owners from throughout New Jersey gathered in Sea Bright this morning for a press conference during which they pleaded with Governor Phil Murphy to approve their plan to reopen their businesses safely.
Christopher Wood, the owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille in Sea Bright and Tinton Falls articulated the ask for the NJ Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
Wood stated that the restaurant owners, who employ 350,000 New Jersey residents, want to:
- Open for outdoor dining on Friday, June 5.
- Open for indoor dining a maximum of 50% capacity by June 15
- Open at 100% capacity by mid-summer
Food service workers are second only to health care workers in providing a clean and sanitized workspace, said Marilou Halversen, President of the NHRHA.
World renowned Chef David Burke, a Monmouth County resident, echoed Halversen’s remarks. “We trusted the healthcare workers, we trusted the supermarket workers. Now it is time to trust the restaurant workers and let us feed people,” Burke declared.
Several Monmouth County elected officials, including Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assembly Member Serena DiMaso and Gerry Scharfenberger and Freeholder Director Tom Arnone stood in solidarity with the restaurateurs and their employees.
O’Scanlon and DiMaso issued the following joint statement:
“We fully support our restaurant owners today in their call for immediate reopening actions. The Governor has said that we are weeks off from seeing restaurants reopen in some capacity. The problem is that our restaurant owners do not have weeks to wait anymore. There are 350,000 New Jersey restaurant workers on unemployment right now. Every week that we wait is another week that keeps these workers unemployed.”
“We are asking that Governor Murphy and his administration take immediate action to uphold his promise for a regional reopening approach. There are two main dates we need to see. First, we must have outdoor dining by June 5th. This is in line with what we are seeing in our neighboring states like Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut who are all opening outdoor dining June 5th.”
“Further, we need 50% occupancy dining by the middle of June. Give restaurants something to work off of. It’s been weeks of waiting and hoping for guidance with no end in sight. They cannot sit tight for a potential date weeks away while our neighboring states reopen safely.”
“June is in fact the 2nd largest month for gross tax receipt revenue, second only to Christmas. With New Jersey’s revenue shortfalls from COVID-19, it’s not just restaurants who would lose out on sales should we forgo a June reopening. We should allow our restaurants to take advantage of June’s revenue opportunities.
“More than a month ago, the NJRHA submitted a safe reopening plan to the administration. We haven’t really seen any solid commentary or movement from the administration on that proposal. If there is anyone who understands safety and hygiene protocols; it’s the restaurant industry.”
“The NJRHA has estimated that 15-18% of restaurants simply will not reopen after all of this. This rate of failure increases each day we don’t act. Every day there are dozens of doors that will be closed for good.”
“Unless one is going to make the argument that either the Governors of all our surrounding states have decided to suddenly ignore science or that science is just different in New Jersey–to be clear neither of which are true–then New Jersey has to reopen the substantial parts of our economy including restaurants as of June 5th.
“Any delay would be grievously, almost gratuitously, punitive to all of us–including business owners and the taxpayers of New Jersey.”