New Jersey will open indoor dining and movie theaters for Labor Day weekend

August 31, 2020

Photo of Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten by cogito ergo imago on Flickr

Much like his decision to open beaches ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey will allow indoor dining to resume across his state this Friday, just ahead of Labor Day weekend. In a Tweet this morning, Murphy said that restaurants and bars can begin operating indoors at 25-percent capacity with social distancing in between tables. In a later press conference, he also announced that movie theaters and other indoor performance venues can reopen on September 4.

Governor Murphy postponed indoor dining ahead of the July 4th weekend, as did New York City (the rest of New York state has resumed indoor dining). In NYC, however, indoor dining still remains on indefinite hold as those in the restaurant industry continue to push Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio on a plan. Last week, as Eater reported, the mayor shed some light on his administration’s “wait-and-watch approach” to indoor dining, saying that a decision will be based on how school reopenings go. (He has already extended outdoor dining through October.) However, as Governor Cuomo reminded people in his press conference today, reopening indoor dining is strictly a state decision, and he understands that New Jersey’s announcement “will exacerbate the discussion” about New York City. He didn’t offer any specifics but said his administration is continuing to evaluate the situation and is also looking to school reopenings.

Both New York City and New Jersey had postponed indoor dining due to surging cases across the country, many of which were tied to restaurants and other indoor gatherings, as well as compliance issues. Rules laid out by Governor Murphy include:

  • No more than 25 percent capacity; parties capped at eight
  • Maintain six feet distance between tables
  • Staff must wear masks at all times
  • Diners must wear masks when they are not in their seats
  • Food and beverages can only be consumed while seated
  • Windows must be open to ensure a proper flow of fresh air into the dining areas
  • Air conditioner units must be turned on so that they’re allowing for the maximum amount of outdoor air to be introduced into the dining area

Starting tomorrow, September 1, indoor gyms and indoor amusement/water parks can also reopen at reduced capacity in New Jersey. On Friday, along with indoor dining, movie theaters and indoor performance venues will be allowed to reopen. Their rules include:

  • Face masks required
  • Social distancing required
  • Capacity will be capped at the lesser of either 25 percent or 150 people
  • Each showing, and each theater in a multi-plex, will be subject to capacity limits
  • If a theater has four screens, each screen will held to the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 150 people

Several responses to Governor Murphy on Twitter pointed out that restaurants have to keep their windows open but theaters do not (as most don’t have any), which leaves the air circulation question unanswered for other indoor establishments.

In addition, the governor increased the capacity limits for the following indoor gatherings to the lesser of either 25 percent capacity or 150 people:

  • Religious services and celebrations
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Memorial services
  • Political activities


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