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NJ Restaurant Industry Hopeful Post-Sandy [AUDIO]

The biggest private sector employer in New Jersey took a massive hit nearly two months ago when Superstorm Sandy swept through the state. Many restaurants, particularly along the shore, remain closed. The head of the New Jersey Restaurant Association admitted some may never reopen.

“It’s just awful that so many restaurants are out of business,” said NJRA President Marilou Halvorsen. “When restaurants are closed, people aren’t working.”

Mamalukes Pizza, Belmar
Mamalukes Pizza in Belmar after Sandy (Michael Loccisano, Getty Images)

Restaurants tend to operate on a very slim profit margin, so Halvorsen said the financial effects are catastrophic each day a restaurant’s doors are closed.

“A lot of people think that the shore is just seasonal, but many of the restaurants do operate year-round,” she continued.

Restaurants that remain closed in the storm-ravaged sections of New Jersey already missed out on potential Hanukkah/Christmas get-togethers. New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year’s Day brunches, other sources of big revenue, also aren’t an option.

Halvorsen said the restaurant industry is very resilient, though.

“There’s a lot of confidence. There’s a lot of commitment to be open by St. Patrick’s Day or Memorial Day,” she said. “This summer, the Jersey shore will be open and ready for business.”

Legislation introduced last month by Democratic Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan would create a month-long, one-time sales tax exemption on meal purchases made in New Jersey restaurants.

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