Indoor dining in New Jersey will resume Friday with limited capacity, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
Restaurants will only be able to have 25% capacity under the new rules, which includes maintaining social distancing between tables. Masks must be worn except when eating or drinking.
“Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against #COVID19,” Murphy wrote in a tweet Monday announcing the updated regulations.
The announcement comes five months after the state shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The development comes as the state is in the second of three stages of reopening. Murphy delayed reopening indoor dining, citing health concerns about the spread of the virus inside.
On Tuesday, gyms and health clubs are cleared to reopen, also at 25% capacity and with a mask requirement.
The outbreak in New Jersey has led to more than 190,000 positive cases, with over 14,000 fatalities.
Murphy was under pressure from business groups and political rivals to reopen.
Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said Murphy’s Monday announcement was “unfortunately long overdue.”
Murphy had said indoor dining could reopen before the July 4 holiday, but changed his mind, citing worsening COVID-19 figures. That decision was met with criticism, including by Siekerka, who said the state’s businesses lost out on the “prime summer season,” losing patrons to open restaurants in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Jack Ciattarelli, a former member of the Assembly, is running for the GOP nomination for governor to take on Murphy next year. He also called the decision long overdue and said if health conditions permit, then capacity should be increased incrementally, rising to 50% by November.
New Jersey restaurants had already been cleared for outdoor dining.