It came as a surprise to just about everyone when Governor Murphy announced Monday that indoor dining in New Jersey can resume on Friday and while that is certainly a step in the right direction for the ailing restaurant industry it is not going to result in wild celebrations.

Murphy, who dealt restaurants a blow in late June when he pulled the plug on plans to open indoor dining just days in advance, now says they can open in time for Labor Day weekend.  However there are plenty of restrictions and you can be sure “Big Brother” will be watching closely to see that restaurants follow them.

First of course is the limit of 25% capacity which means a place that normally has a capacity of 200 will be reduced to 50 which is not a lot.  Groups will be limited to a maximum of 8 people with the exception of immediate families.

Groups must also be six feet apart and food and drink can only be consumed when diners are seated. I spoke with a couple of restaurant owners Monday who said their bar areas will be limited and only those sitting can get a drink.  They are also going to encourage reservations because there will be restrictions of people waiting for a table…in some cases they might have to wait outside or in their vehicle.

Of course, many restaurants have survived these past five months thanks to take out orders and then outdoor dining which will likely continue into October as long as the weather cooperates.  Some places have even planned to set up heated tents to prolong the outdoor season.

However, all in the industry will tell you the only way they can operate is to get indoors and while 25% is a start it needs to advance quickly or you will see many closures in the months ahead.

By the way, not all restaurants will jump on indoor dining right away for their own reasons including some feeling they just can’t do it quite yet in a safe manner.  I’m sure many diners will opt to eat outdoors for as long as possible because they feel more comfortable.

Bottom line is the consumer can now chose what they want to do instead of a Governor who at times seems to relish in the power he wields when it comes to what can and cannot open.  Being able to make our own decision on this is the way it should be.

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