Murphy administration sues Asbury Park for allowing indoor dining
ASBURY PARK — The state has filed a lawsuit against this Jersey Shore municipality over a City Council resolution allowing indoor dining starting Monday.
Gov. Phil Murphy this month issued an executive order allowing restaurants to offer sit-down dining outdoors only starting Monday. He also issued an order allowing indoor gatherings of up to 25% of capacity with a maximum of 50 people and outdoor gatherings for up to 100. Both orders excluded indoor sit-down dining.
In defiance of the orders, the Democratic governing body on Wednesday approved a resolution allowing indoor dining in an effort to help restaurants and bars that have been struggling since a March order prohibiting sit-down service.
"We've tried to work with the governing body of Asbury Park to try to amicably resolve the issue of their resolution regarding indoor dining," Murphy said Friday. "Unfortunately, they have not done so. We have one set of rules and they are based on on principle and that is insuring public health. The attorney general will be bringing a lawsuit as we speak against Asbury Park to enforce our orders."
Prior to the lawsuit being filed in Superior Court, Mayor John Moor told New Jersey 101.5 that the resolution stands.
The mayor said officials are still “in discussion and we’re going to see how it plays out.”
“We’re waiting to see more information from Trenton as far as why and we’ll go from there,” Moor said.
The mayor would not address enforcement of the executive order by Asbury Park police. Assistant Mayor Amy Quinn has said the city would not enforce the state order but warned that the state could still enforce it.
Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of the Langosta Lounge and Pop's Garage on the boardwalk, told New Jersey 101.5 she plans to offer indoor dining if the resolution remains in place.
"If everyone's going to start filing lawsuits, can we get some of the leaders in the industry and the governor's team and the municipalities on a Zoom call and start to sort this out instead of suing people?" Schlossbach said.
Murphy this week continued to express concern for businesses where customers are inside and sedentary.
The governor said he understands business owners have been economically "crushed" as a result of being forced to close during the pandemic, but the Asbury Park resolution is "inconsistent" with his executive order.
Murphy on Friday added that visiting retail stores, which will be allowed to take in customers Monday, is different than sitting down inside a bar and restaurant.
"You don’t spend your day or hours in a retail shop as you would in a restaurant or a bar. I think we have to acknowledge that," he said.
The city’s action got further support from state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, and Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, who said that “they have a duty to help their constituents when the governor is being completely arbitrary in his reopening plans. Allowing for more indoor gatherings but excluding restaurants makes no sense.”
The city also got support from Seaside Heights borough administrator Christopher Vaz who shared frustration on his Facebook page at not being able to open arcades.
"Thank you City Council of Asbury Park for defending small businesses and helping underscore the inconsistencies created by the executive orders and even, on a higher level, the absence of reason and clear thinking," Vaz wrote.
This is not the first time the Murphy administration has sued a municipality over the pandemic emergency orders. In early April, state officials sued Jersey City after the mayor ordered child care centers to close. The state eventually did order child care centers to provide services only to children of essential workers.
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