No, Murphy wasn’t ‘caught’ eating inside restaurant, manager says
BERKELEY — Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife didn't eat inside Martell's Waters Edge Saturday, despite social media posts and pictures purporting to show the governor doing just that, according to the manager of the restaurant.
Throughout the weekend, several people posted pictures of the governor at Martell's, seen in an area with a ceiling overhead. The website More Monmouth Musings ran a post based on the pictures, headlined "Murphy dines indoors in violation of his COVID orders." State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon tweeted a screenshot of a Facebook post that alleged Murphy dined indoor at Martell's — with pictures of Murphy around the bar, posing with patrons and signing autographs — with the message "Wow. The hypocrisy is astounding."
Under Murphy's executive orders, indoor dining remains prohibited until early next month. Outdoor dining is currently allowed.
Murphy was indeed at Martell's — he posted a 36-second video to his own Facebook page and Twitter account showing him dining outside — but both the restaurant's manager and the governor's office say no executive order violation took place.
Rich Sorge, the manager of the restaurant, located on Barnegat Bay in the Bayville section of the township, told New Jersey 101.5 Martell's has a very large outdoor tiki deck for both dining and a bar. He said the photos on social media show Murphy there.
"Everything is outdoors. It's under cover, it's got a roof, (it's) outdoors and it's so large that I'm able to hang TVs out there so they can watch sports while still dining outside, Sorge said.
The governor at outdoors, and then was "invited underneath the overhang of the tiki deck outside,” Sorge said.
Sorge said the only time Murphy was inside was when State Police escorted the governor through a corridor to get to a van for security, as heavy rains came down.
"There was no one in the building to even take pictures with except for me, and I'm not in any pictures. I'm the only one in the building because the building is closed," Sorge said.
Murphy press secretary Alyana Alfaro told New Jersey 101.5 "there is no truth to claims the he ate indoors."
And Murphy himself, in his daily press conference about the novel coronavirus, said social media posts suggesting he had indoors at a restaurant were particularly irresponsible because they suggest to some people they should feel free to do the same.
That, Murphy said, could lead to more people getting sick and dying.
"That's blood on their hands. I don't know how they can live with themselves," Murphy said.
O'Scanlon, in a later tweet on Monday, said he spoke to the governor's office and was told "he — and those other patrons — were dining outside and only took shelter inside during a downpour. If that’s true then fair enough."
Earlier this month, Murphy was criticized by some business owners and legislators for participating in Black Lives Matter protests while his executive orders limiting the size of gatherings were still in effect. Some organizers of other demonstrations, protesting against the governor's COVID-19 restrictions, have been ticketed for alleged executive order violations, though attendees of such demonstrations generally haven't.