By Art Gallagher
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy dined outdoors at Nicholas Barrel and Roost in Middletown last evening while the indoor Barrel Room was packed with knuckleheads.
Murphy, who seemed aware of my presence, wore a mask at his outdoor table while those dining in the crowded Barrel Room were maskless.
Prior to Murphy’s arrival, Middletown Deputy Police Chief John Kaiser and a Sergeant showed up the restaurant at about 6:45 p.m, circled the establishment in a black SUV apparently to observe the crowd through the open windows, which I had done at 6:14 p.m, before approaching the front door where they were greeted by proprietor Nicholas Harary.
Harary waived while I photographed the encounter.
The officers and Harary spoke for about five minutes and then they entered the restaurant. About five minutes later, Deputy Chief Kaiser and the Sergeant who accompanied him emerged from the establishment. They spoke on their cell phones and chatted with the Governor’s advance security Trooper. Then the police left at about 7:05 p.m.
The Governor’s advance security Trooper had arrived at about 6 p.m. He entered the restaurant at 6:09 p.m. and emerged at 6:10 p.m. He sat in a black Suburban while a steady flow of patrons entered the restaurant. He remained in the Suburban until after the Middletown PD arrived.
Deputy Chief Kaiser declined to discuss what he observed inside the restaurant. He referred all questions to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s spokesperson has yet to return my call.
At 7:25 p.m., Governor Murphy and his party showed up in two black Suburbans and went to their waiting outdoor table.
Nicholas Barrel and Roost, formerly known as Nicholas Restaurant, advertises on their website that due to COVID-19 they are only open by reservation and seating is only in their outdoor patio and in the Barrel Room Bar.
They were packed last night.
Murphy’s Executive Order #163 was signed on July 8, nine days after we reported that he dined indoors at Martell’s Tiki Bar in Bayville and seven days after we opined that he should amend his Executive Order that prohibits indoor dining to allow open air dining, like what’s offered at Martell’s any many other establishments on the Jersey Shore.
EO-163 allows restaurants and bars that can open two walls to serve their guests under their roof.
As NJ.com put it on July 9, EO-163 “clarifies that eateries can offer indoor — or quasi-indoor dining — if they have no roof or a fixed roof or temporary cover with at least two open sides that allows 50% of their wall space to open.”
Nicholas Barrel and Roost, which recently completed a renovation and rebranding, does not appear to comply with EO-163. The following photos were taken the morning after Murphy’s visit.
Governor Murphy has yet to respond to a text message sent at 8:03 p.m. last evening. This story will be updated if he does.
Harary has not yet responded to a voice mail and a text sent this morning. This story will be updated if he does.