NJ restaurant officials call on Gov. Murphy for timeline for indoor dining

HADDONFIELD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The New Jersey Restaurant Association is calling on Governor Phil Murphy to give them a timeline for indoor dining as they try to prepare for cooler weather.

The Bistro at Haddonfield had a full lunch crowd with Tuesday's mild weather, and even with ample sidewalk seating, there was a wait for a table.

But owners say on the not so nice days, there are big challenges with indoor dining still not allowed in New Jersey.

"It started raining around 7:00 p.m.," said owner Nick Lavdas, recalling a recent storm. "I had a full house. I didn't know what to do. I was packing up food."

On King's Highway, Villa Rosa Restaurant sits empty after the owners closed over the weekend because of COVID-19 related financial strain. A GoFundMe is now up and running, as management hopes to reopen in another location.

The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association says with current restrictions in place, more closures are bound to follow.

"We'd like to get open, but we want to do it safely," said association president Marilou Halvorsen.

Monday, the association called on Murphy to give an anticipated date for when indoor dining might be allowed again.

"It's been said to me that going out to eat is a luxury, it's not important. That's not what this is about. This is about the 25,000 small business owners in this state and their 350,000 employees," said Halvorsen.

At P.J. Whelihan's in Cherry Hill, management worries about the cold winter months, saying it's especially frustrating when their Pennsylvania restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity.

"When the weather does start to chill down, we're going to lose our outdoor dining. So we need to have some sort of a plan. What are we going to do? said Mike Perro, director of New Jersey operations for the PJW Restaurant Group.

Customers Action News spoke with had mixed opinions on indoor dining.

"As long as everything is 6-feet apart like usual, I think everything will be fine," said Aaron Smith of Willingboro.

"For me, I'm not quite there yet. To go indoor dining. I feel safer outside. The fresh air and the social distancing," said Yolanda Nelson of Sicklerville.

Action News reached out to Murphy's office on Tuesday. A spokesperson said there is no update on a timeline for indoor dining.

Murphy has said in the past that indoor dining is risky because it requires people to take masks off inside.
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