TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey leaders are allowing all capacity limits to be lifted Wednesday, but are still requiring businesses to allow room for social distancing indoors and outdoors.
Masks must still be worn inside businesses, unless you are seated at a restaurant. The outdoor mandate for public places was lifted earlier this week.
While there is no longer a limit on capacity, the state is telling business owners to make sure there's enough space inside and outside for individuals or groups to remain six feet apart.
Indoor gathering limits are increased, while the limit on outdoor gatherings has been removed.
The key to this next step of lifting additional restrictions is maintaining enough space between people.
More than eight people are now allowed to be seated at a table but those tables must still be six feet a part, unless partitions that meet state guidelines are used.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said this new change of lifting capacity limits means the events people associate with a typical summer can also happen, such as fireworks displays and parades as long as attendees are keeping a distance.
At Ozzie's in Longport, owner Likie Nika said that really means no change at all for her small eatery.
"It doesn't really change anything because if you're going to have six feet distancing, you can't have 100% capacity," Nika said, while manning most of the busy breakfast and lunch crowd on her own Wednesday morning.
The other issue she is having: no one wants to work.
"I've hired three and I need seven," Nika said of the amount of employees she has hired versus the amount she needs.
At Sapore Wood Fire Pizza and Restaurant in Ventnor, Julls Penko said he welcomes the increased capacity.
"It kind of helps to be honest as some people aren't as scared as they were before because the vaccines are out now," he said.
However, he is seeing confusion among customers about the rule on masks, especially since other states are allowing people to stop wearing them indoors.
On Wednesday night, almost 200 Burlington Township High School seniors were at The Madison in Riverside for their prom.
"This year, with everything getting back to normal, having a prom just feels so right," said senior Chris Pierce.
And it was a big night for the newly-renovated Madison Pub. They waited until there were no capacity limits to reopen.
"We could not be more excited to welcome our guests after a long year," said manager Kevin Pons.
In New Jersey, you are allowed to go without a mask outdoors but, as stated before, not indoors.
"Some people come in and are like 'we're fully vaccinated, we don't have to wear masks anymore.' But we're like 'Oh, we're in New Jersey so...,'" Penko said.
Ventnor's mayor, Beth Holtzman, said that with just over a week until Memorial Day, she is welcoming any easing of restrictions.
Just last year they had to become creative in how to help businesses, including shutting down streets for dining. She also closed their boardwalk out of fear of transmitting the virus.
The city also lost a slew of public camps they normally offer to local kids.
"All those camps didn't exist last year, and they're businesses but they're actually a business of the city of Ventnor which brings revenue. We lost that revenue last year," added Holtzman.
Here are the changes taking place Wednesday in the Garden State:
- The outdoor gathering limit is removed. Instead of a hard cap on attendance, the state will require that all attendees at any outdoor event keep social distances of at least six feet and current mask requirements will remain in place.
- Restaurants no longer have a capacity limit but are able to operate at whatever capacity allows them to continue to ensure a minimum six-foot distance between groups.
- The prohibition on tables of eight persons or more is removed and tables may be spaced closer than six feet if DOH compliant partitions are in use.
- For other indoor settings or businesses, which were governed by a percentage-based cap - religious services, retail establishments, gyms and fitness clubs, personal care businesses, indoor and outdoor amusement and recreation businesses, and indoor and outdoor pools, the 50% capacity limits are lifted and replaced with the requirement a minimum of six feet of social distance between individuals and groups be maintained.
- The indoor social gathering limit (e.g. conferences, expositions, meetings of fraternal organizations, job trainings, events hosted by senior centers) increases from 100 to 250 people, so long as social distancing can be maintained.
- Indoor religious services and celebrations may be held at 100 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 individuals, so long as social distancing can be maintained.
- Indoor performances may be held at 100 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 individuals. Individuals or groups of people must remain six feet apart.
- Large indoor venue capacity limit increases to 30 percent and will apply to all venues with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more.