Assembly panel advances restaurant relief package to waive fees, establish safety measures

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The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee advanced a restaurant relief package to wave fees, establish safety measures, and more at Wednesday’s session.

Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

One bill in the package, A-5133, sponsored by Assemblymen Lou Greenwald (D-6) and
Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), would allow restaurants to operate at either 25 or 50 percent capacity indoors, depending on the COVID-19 activity level in their region and whether the business has certified that established safety measures have been met.

“There is no doubt that our restaurants and food establishments have been hit
hard by the pandemic. If we want the businesses we all know and love to remain open, we must find solutions to the unique challenges they are facing. This legislation does just that,” Chiaravalloti said in a statement.

Another measure, A-5136, sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37), Greenwald, and Chiaravalloti, would help ensure patron safety while allowing restaurants to fill the permitted number of seats by requiring physical barriers between seating areas if six feet of distance is not possible.

“Around 17 percent of restaurants throughout the country have already closed
since the start of the pandemic, while nearly 40 percent of New Jersey restaurants may have to close within the next six months due to financial challenges posed by COVID-
19,” explained Johnson.

“We must do everything we can to prevent that from happening by giving restaurants the ability to safely continue serving customers.”

With many restaurants offering outdoor seating to make up for reduced indoor seating capacity, the package also aims to address various aspects of these outdoor
operations.

Yet another separate measure, A-5137, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri
Huttle, Greenwald, and Johnson would require the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to waive the $75 fee for the permit that allows establishments to serve alcohol in
areas adjacent to their premises.

“Many businesses had to improvise outdoor seating in response to necessary restrictions inside their restaurant,” noted Huttle.

“Every dollar counts when you’re trying to keep a business afloat, which is why this bill would require the ABC to waive or reimburse the $75 fee for the critical COVID-19
Expansion Permit allowing businesses to continue selling alcohol outdoors.”

Furthermore, two additional pieces of legislation would establish safety requirements for
outdoor structures restaurants have erected to shield guests from the elements.