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Gyms May Open Sept. 1...Restaurants Must Continue to Wait to Open Indoor Dining


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(The Center Square) – New Jersey gyms and health clubs will reopen at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 1 but indoor dining remains banned.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he hopes to announce a plan for indoor dining before Sept. 15 when asked by a reporter for a date.

An executive order announced Wednesday by the governor requires gym staff and members to wear masks at all times and limits classes to one person per 200 square feet.

Staff and members will be required to keep a log, a requirement Murphy said is necessary so that contract tracers can alert others if a member or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.

The executive order also allows indoor amusement facilities to reopen on Sept. 1, with guidance expected to come later this week.

“Gyms are among the most challenging indoor environments to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” Murphy said. “But, given where we are in this fight, we believe we are ready to take the next step forward.”

Murphy ordered gyms and other businesses to close in March, affecting about 53,000 staff members, according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA).

The move may not be beneficial to gyms, according to Eileen Kean, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“The 25 percent capacity restriction will make it very challenging for most gyms that will have to make appointments for members to work out so they have enough room,” Kean said in a statement. “These small businesses have waited so long, and while they are grateful for any movement, this still isn’t going to allow them to be profitable.”

The NJBIA welcomed the gym reopenings but issued a statement saying they are disappointed the governor did not make a decision on indoor dining.

“The odds are still long for restaurants to thrive with limited indoor capacity, particularly as we steer toward colder weather in the coming months when outdoor dining will not be as feasible,” said NJBIA president and CEO Michele Siekerka. “Continuing a ban on indoor dining, even as schools, health and fitness centers, and other businesses reopen, makes no sense and could be the death knell for many restaurants.”

Murphy had agreed to allow restaurants to open on July 2, but he rescinded the order, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Assembly and Senate will vote on a bill Thursday that sets aside $30 million in federal funds to reimburse restaurants, bars and caterers for money they spend preparing for the July reopening.


published here with permission of The Center Square