NEW JERSEY - A showdown over coronavirus restrictions may be brewing in Asbury Park, the New Jersey shore city often associated with rocker Bruce Springsteen.
The town's city council on Wednesday approved a resolution permitting its restaurants to host diners indoors on Monday, with some restrictions on capacity. That is in direct defiance of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order that allows outdoor dining beginning Monday but not indoor dining. Governor Murphy pushed back against the city council’s resolution on Thursday.
At his daily briefing Thursday, Murphy, a Democrat, said the town's plans “are inconsistent with my executive order. We cannot have one set of rules for one town and another for another town.”
On Tuesday, Murphy had announced restrictions for retail businesses, allowing customers inside as long as they adhere to 25% capacity. Officials in Asbury Park took that information and built from it.
Murphy said he has been in contact with Asbury Park officials. Asked if he would seek to enforce the order if restaurants offer indoor dining Monday, he said, "we will continue to enforce as evenly as we can and where we think public health is at risk.”
Asbury Park's resolution would permit restaurants to host diners inside at 25% of the building's capacity or 50 people, whichever is less.
"We've got to get going. I am caught in the middle. I am the chair of the NJ Restaurant and Hospitality Association. I also own three venues at the Jersey Shore. Every single day I am closed I am losing thousands of dollars. We have 12 weeks left to make money. We have12 Mondays left. I don't want to give one up," said Marilyn Schlossbach, owner Langosta Lounge, Pop's Garage.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said the city took the action because restrictions implemented to control the coronavirus pandemic were taking a toll on the city’s restaurants. A popular eatery announced last week it would close permanently.
"I'd love to reopen on Monday I think the decision who can open and cannot open have been arbitrary at best," said Amy Russo, owner Toast.
In response, Murphy said that he understands that restaurants are badly hurting, but said that his job is to keep the rate of transmissions down and that his belief is that reopening too soon could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases, which would be a major setback.
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Murphy says he will continue to enforce his executive orders.
"When you put your neck out on the line for a community of business owners or any group, you are taking a chance. Wherever the cards lay, I hope they do not come after us financially. Just like people are protesting for the things they believe in, we are standing up for the rights of business owners. Historically, hospitality is most sanitary place you can congregate. If everyone knows how to open safely, it's restaurants," said Schlossbach
With the Associated Press.