New Jersey lifts some restrictions today.

As of today, you can do something you haven't been able to do for months: have a drink at a bar. Gov. Phil Murphy banned bar seating on Nov. 12, 2020, as part of sweeping new restrictions after COVID-19 cases surged.

On Monday, Murphy announced many of the restrictions he has imposed on the state designed to curb the spread of COVID infections will be lifted by May 19. The first phase of the easing of those restrictions begin today.

Although you can sit at a bar, social distancing rules remain in effect. Six feet of distance must be maintained between groups accesses bar service or they must be separated by Plexiglas partitions.

The restaurant and bar industry has been hit particularly hard by pandemic related closures and restrictions. While they welcomed expanded access, for many it is too late.

They are also facing new hiring challenges, claiming enhanced unemployment benefits have caused many employees refuse to come back to work because they make more on unemployment than working. Indoor dining limits are due to be lifted on May 19, but many restaurants may not be able to do so due to a lack or workers.

Some have already begun asking patrons for patience as they try to serve more customers with less staff.

Here is a full list of the restrictions being eased as of today:

  • Outdoor gatherings limit – The limit will increase to 500 persons, up from 200.
  • Large venue outdoor capacity – The maximum capacity allowed will increase to 50% for venues with 1,000 fixed seats or more, as long as six feet of distance is maintained, up from 30% capacity for venues with a 2,500 fixed seating capacity.
  • Increase in maximum capacity for certain indoor activities – Currently, indoor catered events are limited to 35% of the capacity of the room in which they are held, up to 150 persons. The capacity limit for those events, including proms, will be raised to 50%, up to a maximum of 250 individuals. The capacity limit for indoor political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances will also increase accordingly.
  • Dance floors at private catered events – Dance floors would be permitted to open at such events, with masking and social distancing requirements in place. Dance floors would remain closed at bars and other related businesses, such as nightclubs.
  • Permit carnivals and fairs to operate at the amusement business capacity – Currently, these events may be treated like a gathering, and thus subject to more restrictive limits. Carnivals and fairs may now operate at the same capacity as large outdoor amusements.
  • Bar seating – The prohibition on indoor bar seating will be lifted, with final guidance on necessary safeguards, such as spacing and the use of Plexiglas, to follow from the New Jersey Department of Health.
  • Buffets – The restriction on self-service food, like buffets, at restaurants, would be lifted, but individuals will still be required to remain seated while eating and drinking.

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