New Jersey halts indoor dining restart, shopping malls reopen

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Monday he's postponing the restart of indoor dining because of a lack of compliance over the use of face masks and social distancing.

"Compliance is not a polite suggestion, it is a requirement," he said during a news conference.



Murphy cited the spike in other states, as well as reports in New Jersey of people not correctly wearing or failing to wear face masks.

"Unfortunately the national scene compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future," he said.

Sophia Papastamelo, the owner of Sofia Restaurant in Margate, says she's disappointed but trying to stay positive.

"What are you going to do? Fight the system? You can't. I don't think we'll ever recapture the season but we just have to go with the flow," said Papastamelo.

She and her staff are trying to survive with outdoor dining.

Over in Ocean City, Joseph and Nancy Babcock, who own Luigi's Italian Restaurant, say they are feeling knocked down.

"It's slap in the face to the little guy. If it rains outside you're not doing anything," said Joseph.

"We're trying not to be or feel defeated but you do feel defeated," Nancy added.

But despite missing another big business holiday weekend with inside seating, they'll make do.

"We're going have to roll with it. I mean we can't change anything and we can't break the rules because then we'll be the ones that get the fines," Joseph said.

Nick Lavdis wants to know why some big box stores get to stay open.

"When you see places like Walmart and Home Depot packed sometimes you say where is the logic?" said Lavdis who owns The Bistro at Haddonfield.

INDOOR SHOPPING MALLS


On Monday, indoor shopping malls were cleared to start business again.

"Malls are an undeniable part of New Jersey culture, and we want these businesses to get back up and running in a safe, responsible manner," said Murphy, early last week. "To keep our restart moving in the right direction, we ask New Jerseyans who wish to head out to the mall or any public setting to do so safely."

Casinos are set to reopen Thursday at 25% capacity. Murphy said that can go forward.

However, Atlantic City's Borgata announced they are hitting the breaks.

The casino released this statement to Action News:

"We respect the Governor's decision to postpone the reopening of indoor dining in New Jersey to protect the public. Given this decision, our property Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City will remain closed. Our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed until such time that the Governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage."

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New Jersey halts its indoor dining restart, but shopping malls have reopened.



Stores in the shopping malls can only have 50% capacity, people must wear masks and social distancing guidelines must be met.

Restaurants inside the mall are allowed to offer take-out dining inside the mall and in-person service at outdoor areas outside the mall.

Retail kiosks in the mall were also permitted to reopen but they must ensure customers remain six feet apart.

All areas with communal seating were removed or cordoned off.

The following businesses that may be located within the indoor portions of shopping malls will remain closed: gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters, amusement parks, water parks and arcades.

Colleen Rodgers and her daughter made a quick shopping trip in the Towne Place at Garden State Park shopping center in Cherry Hill. But a mall, she says, is too much.

"It doesn't really feel essential or necessary. You know you can shop online, Amazon," said Rodgers.

Another group said this is their first shopping trip, and prefer an outdoor environment when they go from store to store.

"I can come out and feel that I have room. At the mall, it's going to be too crowded and everything. I don't want that," said Jeanette Scrivens of Camden.

Officials at the Cherry Hill Mall say they will be operating with reduced hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Operating hours at department stores and restaurants may vary.

The Moorestown Mall will also be operating on reduced hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

New Jersey has been among the hardest-hit states, which Murphy hinted at when rescinding the restaurant reopening.

"None of us, none of us want to go back to that hell. We've worked too hard to get here," he said.

New Jersey reported 156 new cases overnight for a total of 171,000, Murphy said. There were 18 new confirmed deaths since Sunday, for a total of 13,138 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths. There are 1,854 suspected coronavirus-linked deaths.

The delay in reopening comes as the state progresses through Stage 2, of three, of restarting. So far, indoor retail has reopened, along with salons, barbershops and massage parlors.

Also set to reopen Thursday are amusement and water parks, playgrounds, museums, aquariums and libraries.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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