HOBOKEN — The Mile Square City is planning nightlife restrictions and fines to deal with a potential second wave after a recent spike in cases was tied to indoor gatherings.

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla said he is mandating that all bars and restaurants close by midnight every night starting Thursday. The mayor said people are spending more time indoors where the virus spreads more easily.

"With infections rising, the last thing we want is for Hoboken to be the location where large amounts of people are encouraged to come and party late at night, when social distancing and other health precautions are much less likely to be observed," Bhalla said.

Bhalla said that over the past several weekends, police have "responded to a number of house parties that have been not only disruptive to neighbors, but have also contributed to the spread of COVID-19, as confirmed by the Hoboken Health Department during contact tracing.

"It’s extremely disappointing to see such disregard for public health, knowing that one party could turn into a super-spreader event that infects some of our most vulnerable residents, whose lives could be at risk," the mayor said in a written statement.

Bhalla will also ask the City Council at a special meeting on Thursday to adopt an ordinance that would impose fines of $250 to $1,000 for indoor gatherings that both have more than 25 people while violating other city ordinances such as noise regulations or disorderly conduct. Both owners and tenants would be subject to the fines.

The governor's executive order on indoor gatherings carries a potential fine of $1,000 and imprisonment up to six months.

The mayor also discouraged trick-or-treating for Halloween.

In Newark, meanwhile, non-essential businesses and indoor dining will close at 8 p.m.  starting Tuesday for the next two weeks per an order by Mayor Ras Baraka after a spike in coronavirus cases larger than all of Essex County combined.

Murphy on Monday said he was "right beside (Baraka) in the steps that he's taking, and the steps that we're taking with him." The governor's office on Tuesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's question about whether Murphy supports Bhalla's order.

In March, Murphy signed Executive Order No. 108, which specified that the governor would have the authority to override any local restrictions or conflicts between local and state rules. The governor said at the time that while several cities and counties were trying to be proactive about coronavirus rules, all levels of government needed to work with one strategy.

In his written message this week, Bhalla said that municipalities cannot close bars and restaurants like during the start of the pandemic but local governments still have the authority to limit hours of operations.

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

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