Restaurants in Brick Township began outdoor dining Monday, complying with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order that allows outdoor dining with social distancing but keeps indoor dining barred statewide.
Brick Township, like several in the area, had established a permit process for restaurant owners to temporarily apply to expand outdoor dining in their parking lots and yards to supplement what was expected to be capacity limits on indoor dining. But contrary to the expectation of township officials, Murphy’s order a few days later only addressed outdoor dining and kept indoor dining off-limits. In an attempt to help the township’s struggling restaurant industry, which has already lost at least three establishments permanently due to the coronavirus lockdown, the township council strengthened its temporary outdoor dining policy to allow coverings on top of outdoor areas and allowing up to 100 percent capacity limits as long as state-mandated social distancing requirements can be met by available space.
“The original conversations when I was on the calls with the governor was that when restaurants opened, there would maybe be a 50 percent or 25 percent capacity and we would make up for the rest [outside],” said Mayor John Ducey, but that never occurred. “The outdoor dining areas are going to be the only seating areas for restaurants, and when you’re only at 25 or 50 percent capacity, it’s not going to be enough to keep you in business.”
Under a revised version of the resolution passed by council last month, restaurants will be able to cover – but not enclose – their outdoor dining areas in order to protect customers from the elements.
“We heard from a lot of restaurants who thought they would have a hard time doing the reservation system because of the threat of rain almost every night,” said Ducey. “Do you cancel, or just not take reservations?”
Many restaurants in town are still in the process of launching their full outdoor dining areas. The popular Windward Tavern on Princeton Avenue posted on its Facebook page a photo of staff building new tables and chairs. At River Rock, on the Manasquan River, tables could be seen being set up at the restaurant’s deck and outdoor beach area. Beacon 70 is promoting its dock-and-dine specials for boaters.
The covering must comply with township regulations and be permitted. The outdoor dining resolution lasts from June 15 to Dec. 31, 2020. Outdoor dining areas must be physically separated by barriers to prevent vehicles from entering the dining area.