(The Center Square)(July 1, 2020)-- – Restaurant owners should be reimbursed for money spent in anticipation of the now-canceled reopening on Thursday, said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy said “it’s better to be safe than sorry” in defense of his late decision to halt indoor dining.
Murphy had announced earlier this month that restaurants could reopen at 25 percent capacity with social distancing and mask restrictions in place. He rescinded his decision this week, citing a surge in cases in surrounding states and reports of some restaurants not following the rules.
Bramnick said the state should foot the bill for the restaurants’ costs.
“I am drafting legislation to reimburse restaurant owners who spent money and relied on Governor Murphy’s word that they could reopen tomorrow,” Bramnick said. “They deserve to be reimbursed by the government.”
Murphy said science was the reason behind his decision.
“Indoor environments where it’s impossible to wear masks, or where people are sedentary for long periods of time without masks – such as gyms, bars, and restaurants – remain the most dangerous in terms of transmission,” Murphy said.
The governor praised Jersey City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut, who cited the Factory Restaurant and Lounge for overcrowding and the large number of patrons who were not wearing masks.
Jersey City has received 1,088 calls about compliance with the executive order, Hudnut said.
The New Jersey Business Coalition also criticized Murphy for his decision and for vetoing legislation that would create an emergency loan program for hospitality businesses.
"These businesses were willing to face insurmountable odds of surviving, while operating safely at 25 percent capacity,” the organization said in a prepared statement. “They know the losses that continue to rack up and they were, and are, ready to follow the rules and demand that their patrons do the same.”
The uptick in COVID-19 cases in other states was no reason for Murphy to delay restaurant reopenings in New Jersey, the organization said.
“We should recognize they invested in interior changes to their facilities, notified staff they can come back to work and spent considerable dollars to purchase food and beverages in order to meet the demands of the customers they were ready to serve,” they said.
About 20 percent to 23 percent of restaurants closed their doors permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That number will likely increase, the New Jersey Business Coalition said in its statement.
Murphy did allow the reopening of casinos to go ahead, but some casino owners decided not to open after the governor halted restaurant openings.
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