New Jersey restaurants want to expand indoor dining as cold weather looms

Outdoor dining in New Jersey
Photo credit Sean Adams/ WCBS 880

TRENTON (WCBS 880) — New Jersey restaurant owners say things are going well since indoor dining began at the beginning of September.

As New York City prepares to begin indoor dining with limited capacity on Wednesday, restaurant owners across the Hudson River says that it’s so far, so good in the Garden State. 

“Knock on wood, right? We haven't seen any cases coming out of dining,” explains Marilou Halvorsen.

Halvorsen, who heads the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, says that restaurants are largely following the rules, the problem is customers.

“The biggest struggle is guests not wanting to wear their masks,” she says.

Craig Kunisch, who owns the Allendale Bar and Grill and Mahwah Bar and Grill, says the most important thing, however, is making sure they feel safe.

“I think guests are coming in and seeing the tables spaced and seeing the staff in masks,” he said.

He says he is glad that restaurants can operate at some indoor capacity, but says he worries about how sustainable it is. 

“A step to 25% is forward progress. But 25% is by no mean sustainable. Operators can't survive on 25%,” he said.

Kunisch is especially worried about the cold weather, as is Halvorsen.

“They can do that when they have outdoor dining to compliment it, but when you don’t have outdoor dining to compliment it, it’s more work,” she said.

Outdoor dining can continue in some areas year-round, like in the city of Hoboken, but others will eventually have to move all seating capacity indoors – and that can be difficult when operating at less than 50% capacity. 

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