HADDONFIELD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey restaurants and bars are celebrating after Phil Murphy signed legislation Wednesday extending outdoor dining until November 2024. It was initially set to expire later this year.
"Supporting the success of our small businesses ultimately means supporting the success of our communities. 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," said Murphy.
El Nopalito in Haddonfield opened in September 2019. They say outdoor dining served as a lifeline.
"It really helped us out because we weren't doing indoor dining, and the takeouts and the outside seating really helped us during COVID-19," said waitress Maria Palillero.
The governor says he is allowing restaurants to continue using tents, umbrellas, tables and chairs outdoors in order to support small businesses and the community. Officials say the move allows restaurants that are still struggling to stay afloat and keep employees on the payroll.
"Once COVID-19 hit, we were only eating outside. But we love eating outside," said Joel Lomurno of Moorestown.
Central Taco and Tequila in Haddon Township converted its parking lot to an outdoor dining patio with 35 tables during the height of the pandemic. They say it's not going anywhere.
"It gives a lot of people the option if they don't feel comfortable sitting inside, feeling close, it gives them the option to be outside. I think people just enjoy eating out here," said manager Eric Weiss.
Restaurant advocates are also celebrating this news. They say outdoor dining allows for increased capacity and it reduces wait times.