New Jersey sues Asbury Park for ignoring state order on indoor dining

June 12, 2020

Earlier this week, a beach town in New Jersey said it would allow indoor dining at some businesses next week, defying a recent executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy. The Asbury Park City Council on Wednesday approved a resolution to allow bars and restaurants to open their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity starting Monday. Earlier this month, Murphy signed an order that would allow for limited outdoor dining at restaurants starting June 15, but he said “we’re not there yet,” when it comes to indoor dining. In response, the governor announced today that the state would be suing Asbury to prevent this from happening.

Asbury Park officials noted that restaurants in the city that choose to open for indoor dining could be subject to penalties from the state. “While Council has approved indoor food and beverage service with restrictions, businesses should be aware this could be overruled by the State of New Jersey,” a press release from the City of Asbury Park reads. “Since Governor Murphy has not yet allowed indoor dining, participating businesses could be considered in violation of Executive Orders and may be subject to fines by the State of New Jersey.”

However, today, in response to news about the state’s legal actions, Asbury Park Mayor John Moor said to, “I know in the past when the governor and his staff thought towns were violating his executive orders he has gone to court and asked the judge for an injunction. I would hope that would be his action, instead of wasting his money, the city’s money which is not his money, and simply ask the judge for an injunction. Then a judge decides it and we’ll go from there.”

In his press conference today, Governor Murphy said, “We have worked with the governing body of Asbury Park to try to amicably resolve the issue of their resolution regarding indoor dining. Unfortunately, they have not done so.” He declined to say whether or not he’d send police in on Monday if restaurants were operating indoors.

Asbury’s indoor restaurant policy falls under a larger reopen and business recovery plan, introduced by the Council on Wednesday. The plan involves a pilot program that would close some streets to cars for recreational activities and business use, including outdoor dining and non-essential retail. The pols also approved a relaxation of ordinances and permitting to allow restaurants and stores to use sidewalks, parking lots, and streets for their businesses.

“We are excited to reopen Asbury Park. COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our community,” Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said in a press release. “As Council, it is our responsibility to do everything that we can to help our struggling businesses rebuild while keeping our residents and visitors safe during this pandemic.”

“The Governor’s Executive Order No. 152 already allows indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and we simply decided to extend it to food and beverage service,” Quinn said.

On Tuesday, Murphy raised the limits on outdoor and indoor gatherings, allowing for up to 50 people at indoor gatherings and 100 people at outdoor gatherings. The state order requires all attendees to wear face coverings, remain six feet from others, and that “physical items may not be shared by multiple attendees” unless sanitized.

In addition to limited outdoor dining, the state’s phase two also allows for hair salons and barbershops and swimming pools to open on June 22, followed by youth programs in early July.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on June 11, 2020, and has been updated to reflect information about the state’s lawsuit. 


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