Food and beverage establishments throughout the state are struggling to stay open while balancing COVID-19 health concerns. In an effort to assist these businesses while protecting employees and customers, Assembly Democrats Louis Greenwald, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Daniel Benson sponsor a bill to provide standard regulations for indoor capacity.
The bill (A-5133) would allow food and beverage establishments, as well as banquet and wedding venues, to operate at a specific capacity indoors, depending on the COVID-19 activity level in their region and whether they certify that safety measures have been met.
Establishments must follow the Governor’s current capacity limit if they are located in an area with high COVID-19 activity and/or if they do not certify measures have been taken to mitigate the risks of the virus.
An establishment located in a region with moderate activity that certifies to the county board of health that safety measures/protocols have been taken – as specified in the legislation – may operate at 50 percent capacity with the county Board of Health’s approval. However, if the Governor has already increased the capacity limit above that amount, no certification would be required.
An establishment in a low activity region that certifies the safety protocols in the legislation have been met may operate at 100 percent capacity, with approval from the county Board of Health. Among other requirements, the establishment must provide the board with information about their sick leave policy, venue capacity, and various safety measures such as the installation of barriers between tables and enforcement of mask-wearing.
Upon the Assembly Appropriations Committee advancing the legislation on Wednesday, the Assembly sponsors issued the following statements:
“The aim of this legislation is to help Main Streets throughout New Jersey survive and ultimately thrive again, by offering a degree of stability while ensuring the safety of staff and patrons,” said Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Providing a reliable and clear path forward will help the food and beverage industry – among the hardest hit industries in our state – to stay in business both during and beyond this pandemic.”
“There is no doubt that our restaurants and food establishments have been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Assemblyman Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “If we want the businesses we all know and love to remain open, we must find solutions to the unique challenges they are facing. This legislation helps provide the stability they need to plan ahead when it comes to serving patrons during this difficult time.”
“The economic devastation of this pandemic is unlike anything we have seen in decades,” said Assemblyman Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Far too many mom-and-pop establishments, many whose life savings are invested in their place, have been devastated by the challenges this crisis has posed. We must address their needs if these businesses and their local employees are to continue.”
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.