TRENTON — State lawmakers have moved quickly to send legislation back to Gov. Phil Murphy expanding the opportunities for restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries to operate outdoors, days after the governor vetoed a similar bill.

The bill, S3340/A5246, was introduced Thursday and passed unanimously Monday without getting a committee hearing. It’s similar though not identical to a bill passed unanimously last fall that was unexpectedly vetoed last week.

“Collectively all of us here today are going to make some 40,000 small business owners very, very happy,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen.

The bill was negotiated by lawmakers and Murphy’s office.

“Really the main part of our economy, the one that was hit the hardest by this pandemic, today by moving this bill forward, we’re going to give them a little bit of a lifeline,” Sarlo said.

Through Nov. 30, 2022, restaurants, bars, distilleries and breweries would be allowed to use covered and uncovered patios and decks, yards, walkways, parking lots and public sidewalks for both food and alcohol consumption, even if indoor dining returns to full capacity.

Business operators would have to file an application with the municipal zoning officer, which cannot be rejected if the business is compliant with the provisions of the bill as well as local ordinances related to health, safety, fire and zoning.

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“Last spring, summer and fall, when we granted outdoor dining through executive order, the sky never fell. There was no drunkenness or lewdness in public. Nobody got hurt. Everybody did it responsibly,” Sarlo said. “Today we provide these folks as they sit here today trying to decide whether or not they should close their doors with some certainty.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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