New Jersey Restrictions Return for Bars and Restaurants as COVID-19 Cases Increase
As case numbers continue to rise during the fall months, New Jersey Governor Murphy has issued new orders on COVID-19 restaurant restrictions. Many bars and restaurants that previously were permitted to re-open their indoor dining areas now face additional restrictions to curb the spread. Further, additional guidance has been issued regarding an establishment’s “outdoor areas” as the cold weather sets in.
COVID-19 Indoor Dining Restrictions in New Jersey
Under these new restrictions, restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges that serve food and drink are required to close their indoor premises for business by 10 p.m. each day and reopen no earlier than 5:00 a.m. the following day. Casinos and retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses must also prohibit the consumption of food and/or beverages indoors between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. These restrictions do not apply to outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery services, which are permitted to continue past 10:00 p.m. to the business’s normal closing hours.
In addition, New Jersey has now issued the following requirements for indoor dining:
- Number of patrons in indoor areas is limited to 25% of the establishment’s indoor capacity, excluding the establishment’s employees
- Limit seating to a maximum of eight customers per table (unless they are family members from the same household), and arrange seating to achieve a minimum distance of six feet between parties; however, tables may be placed closer than six feet if they are separated by dividing barriers
- Customers must wear face coverings while inside the establishment except when eating or drinking at their table
- Customers must be seated at their table to place a food or beverage order. Also, customers can be served and consume food or beverages only while seated
- Smoking, including vaping, is permitted indoors only when otherwise permitted by state law
- Barside seating is strictly prohibited at all hours
Additional Guidance and Restrictions for Outdoor Dining
In addition to the restrictions on indoor dining, additional guidance and restrictions have been issued for outdoor dining at New Jersey food and beverage establishments. To the relief of many establishments, “outdoor areas” have been redefined to include open air spaces that either have no roof or cover or have a fixed roof or temporary or seasonal awning or cover, with at least two open sides that would comprise over 50% of the total wall space if the space were fully enclosed. These outdoor areas must also adhere to the following policies:
- Limit seating to a maximum of eight customers per table (unless from an immediate family or same household), and arrange seating to achieve a minimum distance of six feet between parties
- Encourage reservations for greater control of customer traffic
- Cordon off any indoor or outdoor dance floors to the public
- Require customers to provide a phone number when making a reservation to facilitate contact tracing
- Consider alternatives to paper/physical menus (whiteboards, electronic menus)
- Provide a hand sanitizer station for customers
- Require customers who wish to enter the indoor portion of the establishment to wear a face covering, unless the customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age
- Require that groups stay six feet apart, even in areas where groups are not assigned seating
These COVID-19 restrictions, like all those directed at food and beverage establishments since the beginning of the pandemic, remain in flux as the infection rate changes. We remain vigilant in analyzing all information and guidance issued from the governor’s office and will further update you when we hear more.
For information regarding national and state liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact our Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group: Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire (firstname.lastname@example.org); David C. Berger, Esquire (email@example.com) for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.
The information contained in this post may not reflect the most current developments, as the subject matter is extremely fluid and constantly changing. Please continue to monitor this site for ongoing developments. Readers are also cautioned against taking any action based on information contained herein without first seeking advice from professional legal counsel. For more topics related to COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Thought Leadership Connection.