In what could be the death blow to the New Jersey restaurant industry, Gov. Phil Murphy again rejected an expansion of indoor dining.

While Murphy admitted there is no evidence that links a COVID outbreak to indoor dining, he said expanding capacity would be "irresponsible" at this time.

Restaurants have been pushing for an expansion to 50% capacity. It will remain at 25%, and many will lose the outdoor dining option due to the colder weather. The N.J. Restaurant and Hospitality Association says that simply won't work, and many restaurants will fail. Even at 50%, they insist many would barely break even.

Restaurants and other New Jersey businesses are also dealing with other new regulations that will impact their bottom line and make it harder to survive into 2021.

Gov. Murphy is requiring all businesses to conduct daily screenings of employees, enhance cleaning and provide personal protective gear. He also refused to delay a one-dollar increase in the hourly minimum wage. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association warned while it may sound trivial to the general public, that dollar is multiplied by several employees every hour, as businesses also deal with increased sanitation costs in a limited capacity market.

Gov. Murphy says he has sympathy for small businesses but also has "unending sympathy" for folks earning poverty wages.

Other Top NJ news for today:

  • Despite a continued increase in positive COVID-19 tests, the number of people hospitalized in New Jersey and the number of people dying from infections remains low.
  • Although Gov. Murphy admits there's no evidence that points to a COVID-19 outbreak being caused by indoor dining, he is refusing to increase capacity. Many restaurants will fail.
  • New Jersey has quietly been stockpiling millions of masks, face shields, hospital gowns and gloves. During the initial surge, a lack of PPE was often cited by healthcare workers.
  • Parts of New Jersey may see the first snow today!
  • Tens of thousands of unemployed should be getting another round of federal jobless benefits in the next few days. After the first round of benefits were sent, many claimed they did not get paid or got paid the wrong amount. The state Labor Department says cases are being reviewed for errors.
  • Gov.Murphy says there are no plans to hit pause on an upcoming one-dollar hike in New Jersey's minimum wage, despite pleas from the pandemic-impacted business community for a delay.
  • Will there be a post-season for high school wrestling? There were reports it would be canceled but the NJSIAA insists no formal decision has been made.
  • In the interest of inclusiveness, a bill was passed Thursday by the Assembly requiring school districts to include instruction about diversity in their high school curriculum, including the impact of "unconscious bias" and "economic disparities."
  • Joe Biden still holds a healthy lead over President Trump among New Jersey voters in the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll, but few say they believe any of the public opinion polls.
  • New Jersey has reached a voting milestone: 3 million mail-in ballots received. Some counties will begin opening and counting those ballots today.
  • The Middlesex County Clerk warns: Don't lick the ballot envelope! Voters are being told to use a sponge or glue stick because of the pandemic. However, a ballot will not be rejected because of that reason.
  • The state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow flags to fly on overpasses owned by the New Jersey Turnpike. The bill would also prohibit the rom removing any American flag properly displayed and following the rules in the bill.