Hoboken City Council unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday that extends rules on outdoor dining and drinks throughout winter. Under the new law, restaurants can serve food and alcohol to customers at outdoor seating until December 31, 2021. Under the previous law, most businesses would have to shut down outdoor dining on October 15.
According to lawmakers, approving this legislation was crucial for restaurants struggling to make ends meet throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Without indoor dining, restaurants have relied for months on take-out, delivery, and more recently, outdoor dining. Businesses requested Hoboken City Council to continue outdoor dining in the winter, the legislation states, “given its success to date, and do so sooner rather than later so that businesses can make operational plans for the coming months.”
In the past few months, outdoor dining has become increasingly popular in Hoboken. As Covid-19 is still a very present issue, outdoor dining has let people be around others while still maintaining airflow to prevent viral spread. Hoboken expanded outdoor seating options on June 3 by increasing outdoor occupancy limits and allowing restaurants to serve alcohol outdoors. Outdoor dining includes sidewalk cafes, parklets, and streateries.
The vote to continue outdoor dining through winter came two days after Governor Phil Murphy announced the return of indoor dining. Starting Friday, restaurants can have indoor dining at 25% capacity and with social distancing between tables. Plans to restore indoor dining statewide began in June but were swiftly put to a halt when outbreaks of Covid-19 emerged in New Jersey.
According to the legislation, the city had plans to expand outdoor dining regardless of Murphy’s decision to return indoor dining, citing the need to give definite answers to local businesses having to readjust to ever-changing guidelines. The legislation states, “the City Council nonetheless wants to move forward at this time to give our Hoboken businesses the confidence they are looking for that they will be able to continue with their expanded outdoor occupancy by extending all relevant dates of the programs through the end of 2021.”
The legislation acknowledges that “procedures will need to be fine-tuned concerning, among others, snow removal and what needs to occur to ensure safety in the event of a snowstorm.” It also acknowledges that “plans are underway but not yet finalized to create cold weather parameters that will make outdoor dining and retail effective in the colder months.”
The legislation includes a provision that waives the fee to start outdoor dining until the end of 2021. Previously, the fee ranged from $100 to $250.
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