NJ to lift slew of COVID rules, including indoor dining limit, bar-side seating ban

New Jersey
Diners are seen eating indoors at the Greek Taverna on November 09, 2020 in Edgewater, New Jersey. Photo credit Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- New Jersey will lift a slew of COVID-19-related restrictions in the coming weeks, including its ban on bar-side seating and buffets and its limits on outdoor gatherings and indoor dining, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

The following changes will take effect on Friday, May 7, Murphy said at a news briefing:

• Outdoor gathering limit increases to 500 people
• Indoor room capacities increase to 50%, with a maximum of 250 people for private catered events, political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services and performances
• Dance floors reopen at private catered events
• Outdoor capacity for large venues (1,000 or more fixed seats) increases to 50%
• Indoor bar-side seating will be allowed, with social distancing
• Buffets and other self-service foods will be allowed at restaurants

On May 19, meanwhile, the following changes will take effect, to align with New York state’s newly-announced plans, Murphy said:

• All limits on outdoor gatherings will be lifted (attendees will be required to socially distance)
• The state will remove the 50% capacity limit on indoor dining (restaurants will be allowed to operate at “whatever capacity allows them to continue to ensure a minimum six-foot distance between groups,” Murphy noted)
• The state will lift the 50% capacity limits for indoor and outdoor settings/businesses currently governed by a percentage-based cap (social distancing requirements will remain in effect)
• The indoor social gathering limit will increase to 50 people
• Indoor capacity for catered events, funerals or memorial services, performances, political activities and commercial gatherings will be limited to 250 people, with social distancing
• Indoor capacity for large venues (1,000 or more fixed seats) can increase to 30%, with six feet of distance between ticketed groups

“The steps announced today are the most aggressive steps we have taken to reopen to date,” Murphy said. “We feel confident we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction over the last three weeks.”