While Gov. Phil Murphy gave good marks to some Jersey Shore clubs for improving their social distancing protocols, large gatherings are still happening around New Jersey.

Murphy has blamed large crowds at clubs and house parties for impelling the state's broader downward trend on COVID-19 hospitalizations and spread in recent weeks. Jersey currently limits indoor gatherings to 25 — down from 100 a few weeks ago — and outdoor gatherings to 500, with social distance protocols in place.

D'Jai’s in Belmar, Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant and Bar A in Lake Como earned praised from Murphy at Monday's coronavirus briefing for controlling their crowds and those in line wearing masks.

"On the other side of the coin, apologies, were places like (The Headliner) in Neptune City. A line with zero masks as far as we could tell, and equally lax social distancing. Anyone here could have spread this virus before they even set foot in the bar. This has got to stop," Murphy said.

Citations were issued for violating the executive order for an event at the Estréia restaurant on River Avenue in Lakewood on Sunday night, State Police superintendent Pat Callahan said during Monday's briefing. A reporter at the briefing asked whether police waited until the event was over to hand out citations, but Callahan didn't answer that question directly.

"I believe that the enforcement is very uniform. We do rely mostly on our local and county partners. But when those incidents are reported and police respond and see large gatherings, no social distancing, indoor dining, from all the reports that we get at the ROIC that those executive order violations are issued," Callahan said.

A witness told News 12 New Jersey that “hundreds” of people were at the restaurant.  People were inside despite tents being set up outside, according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

Lakewood police and the Ocean County Prosecutor's have not yet returned messages left Tuesday morning asking how many people were at the restaurant and how many citations were issued.

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Several hundred people gathered outdoors at the Mayor Donnelly Homes public housing in Trenton on Saturday night after a barbecue, according to William Skaggs, a spokesman for Trenton mayor Reed Gusciora. Skaggs said "crowded conditions" led police to break up the crowd.

A witness to the party estimated the crowd for the The Trentonian,  which was first to report the gathering, at between 200 and 500. Many of those at the party were not wearing masks and were crowded in a photo provided to the Trentonian by the witness.

At-large councilman Jerell Blakeley, sharing of the Trentonian story on his Facebook page, wrote those who went to the party should worry about “the innocent victims they could infect."

Gusciora said that he understands the weather is nice and people want to socialize but the coronavirus is still very much active.

"While the Mercer County transmission rate remains below 1 percent, it won’t stay that way unless our residents take the appropriate precautions and avoid tightly packed crowds, wear masks, and maintain social distancing whenever possible," Gusciora said in a statement. "In the meantime, we’ll continue to issue warnings and summonses at any place exceeding the governor’s occupancy limits for COVID-19, whether its backyard parties, restaurants, or even churches."

The city is already offering tests at Donnelly Homes and other high risk areas, according to the mayor.

Murphy has brought attention to large gatherings at private houses in Brick, Howell, Jackson and Middletown. He also blamed a large party of student athletes at Rutgers for causing the football program to be quarantined in July.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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