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Indoor Dining Increases To 35% Capacity In New Jersey

CLIFTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday to expand outdoor dining permits in New Jersey to help when the weather gets warmer.

On Friday, indoor capacity in the state increased, affecting gyms, spas and restaurants, but only by 10%.

"I would've love to see an increase to 50, but 10% is a step in the right direction," said Tick Tock Diner owner Teddy Daniel.

As CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reports, restaurant owners like Daniel can boost their indoor dining capacity from 25% to 35%.

"Baby steps. We're getting there, little bit at a time. We don't want to go full force at once," said diner Melissa Barbers.


For a diner in North Bergen, the added 10 people - from 70 to 80, including staff - isn't enough to boost their bottom line.

"I don't think it's going to change much letting about only 10% more people. I also think that at some point the governor is going to decide we're gonna go back again. It's hard to hire new people when sort of the future is unforeseen," one person said.

The statewide 10 p.m. service limit will also be lifted just in time for the Super Bowl, said the owner of a sports bar in South Jersey.


"The extra time is a lot. We were kicking everybody out at 10 o'clock at a sports bar when all the games were on. Helps a lot when they can stay to the end of the game," said Joe Drum.

Indoor diners in Hoboken were out again Friday night.

"It feels so normal," one woman said.

"It feels so great being just back out," another woman said.

It's a welcomed change for the Brass Rail.

"We get an extra seating for dinner. We're not kicking people out at, like, 9:45," general manager Nancy Guajardo told CBS2's Cory James. "It's a blessing."

Diner Monique Crous lives in Manhattan and is thankful, too.

"Because your food gets cold too fast if you sit outside," she said.

RELATED STORY -- COVID Vaccine: Gov. Cuomo Does Dramatic About-Face, Now Says Restaurant Workers Are Eligible To Get Inoculated

But not every Garden State city is on the same page. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka released the latest numbers detailing three zip codes that have some of the highest COVID-19 cases -- 07104, 07105 and 07107.

Because of that, Baraka is keeping a weekday 10 p.m. curfew and weekend 11 p.m. curfew in play.

Some understand, but say it still hurts.

"It should be like, one or two," Angelica Lazu, of Broad BBQ, said. "Because right now, it's very hard because business is slow, but you gotta pay rent. You gotta pay rent, you gotta pay bills."

Watch Natalie Duddridge's report --

Indoor bars still have to limit seating. To help, Friday morning Gov. Phil Murphy officially signed legislation to expand outdoor dining to allow bars, restaurants and breweries to serve in parking lots, yards, patios and sidewalks through 2022.

"Without the added benefit of the outdoor spaces, margins, if positive at all, will remain razor thin," Murphy said.

The governor said the changes are possible because hospitalizations have gone down by 20% in the last three weeks.

The new law also relaxes restrictions on personal care like barbershops or salons.

"It's been tough because I mean, the clients are coming, but we're trying to keep that social distancing, and if we start hiring more barbers, then more clients will come in," said Eros Francisco of Man Cave Cutz.

Indoor entertainment and recreation like casinos and gyms can up their capacity by 10%, and so can indoor venues hosting weddings or religious ceremonies at 35% with a cap of 150 people.

RELATED STORY -- Sources: Millions Of Dollars In Relief Coming For New York City Bars And Restaurants

Meanwhile, restaurant owners in New York City have at least another week to go before they can reopen for indoor dining.

"We've been crushed," said Dan Connor, one of the owners of Donovan's pub in Woodside, Queens.

Connor's hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo moves up the reopening, which is currently set for Feb. 14, and changes the curfew.

"If you moved it to midnight, that's at least one extra turnover of tables. Give us three days earlier, we get a whole weekend for Valentine's Day," Connor said. "You said from the beginning you were going to follow the numbers and follow the data. Please, take your own advice and let's go."

RELATED STORY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo Open To Possibly Moving Up Start Date For Indoor Dining In New York City

NYC Hospitality Alliance says it is fighting to make that happen because restaurants do not want to miss another major money-making day.

"We are trying to advocate with the governor to ensure that we can increase occupancy to 50% here in New York City safely," said Andrew Rigie, with the NYC Hospitality Alliance. "We've lost thousands of restaurants already. So many more are teetering on the edge of survival."

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge and Cory James contributed to this report.


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