WESTMONT, N.J. -- Expanded outdoor dining is staying around in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed legislation that extends outdoor dining standards set at the height of the pandemic.
With a stroke of Murphy's pen, New Jersey establishments that created outdoor seating during the pandemic can now keep those areas through November 2024. They were set to expire in just three months.
"This is going to be great for our outdoor dining because it does get busy out there, especially in the nice weather," The Kitchen Consigliere manager Patsy Connors said.
Across the street from The Kitchen, also in Collingswood at Hearthside, the initial law allowed them to add to their outdoor dining space.
"It's great. We've had outside dining since we opened," Hearthside general manager Ashley Hayden said. "We didn't have as much, but since COVID, we really expanded that. We doubled our outside dining capacity and people love it. We added the string lights and really created a nice ambiance. Our guests like it. It's 100 degrees outside today and we still have diners so we're really fortunate."
The extension will allow restaurants to serve more diners. That means more money, which they lost tons of during the pandemic.
"Absolutely. It does. We can definitely see it," Hayden said. "The numbers are there, for sure, and it does offer for the customers who still aren't comfortable dining inside, it's nice giving them that option."
There's also a health component.
"It's given us an opportunity to provide a little more seating and like you said, ease people's minds at the same time," The Pour House general manager Joe Wittman said, "so it gives both an indoor and outside option to people, some are more leery and some just want to dine outside under a beautiful night."
And perhaps most important? Diners love it.
"It's a nice move in the first direction I'd say. Hopefully, it's more permanent," diner Pat McMahon said. "We've all kind of gotten used to this style of dining, having the option to have the space outside. A lot of spaces have made a lot of good use with parking lots and sidewalks. We're used to it now I think and we're all pretty much enjoying it, at least we are as a family."
When a state senator who was with Murphy at Wednesday's bill signing indicated he'd like this law to become permanent before it expires in 2024, the governor responded that he's open-minded to that idea.
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