EAST RUTHERFORD – Restaurants and bars that expanded to outdoor dining to stay open when the pandemic struck can now continue those operations through late 2024, under a law enacted Thursday.

Those businesses, as well as breweries and distilleries, got permission to expand to outdoor service in areas designated by municipalities in 2020, when indoor seating was rendered temporarily off-limits. That was already extended once to Nov. 30, 2022 and now has been extended two years beyond that.

“What was born out of necessity to help ensure the survival of wonderful local restaurants … we are now continuing out of the recognition of the way it has positively changed both the hospitality industry and the lives of our communities,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

 

The bill-signing ceremony was held outside at Vesta Wood-Fired, a restaurant that weathered the pandemic in part through a small-business emergency grant from the state Economic Development Authority and a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, said outdoor dining was “a vital lifeline” in 2020 that kept restaurants and bars afloat.

“And as we started to come out of that pandemic, we realized that outdoor dining is a really cool thing,” Sarlo said. “Really cool. It’s really cool to be outside.”

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Sarlo said the outdoor dining rules should be made permanent, and Murphy said he’s open-minded to that.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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