New Jersey towns could close off streets and allow bars, restaurants and other businesses to allow eating, drinking and retail sales on roadways and sidewalks during the coronavirus outbreak under a bill before lawmakers.

The measure would allow towns to close off a street one or more days a week between Thursday and Sunday, and restrict it to pedestrian access. The measure has already passed the state Senate, and was advanced in an Assembly committee on Wednesday.

Bars and restaurants could move tables onto sidewalks or into roadways to serve food and alcoholic beverages to patrons, who would still be required to observe social distancing and use personal protective equipment, to be enforced by the municipality.

Businesses would have to sign an agreement holding the municipality harmless for any claims arising from the activity. The proposal comes as several towns have already taken advantage of permission from the state to allow consumption of alcoholic beverages in specified outdoor areas, including Atlantic City, Cape May and North Wildwood.

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