NJBIA's PUBLIC POLICY FORUM: The Road to Recovery Days to go! REGISTER

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The need to reopen New Jersey’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic has legislators on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee embracing the outdoors.

The committee today released two bills that will make it easier for businesses like restaurants and small stores to operate on the sidewalk and even closed city streets to protect public health as New Jersey enters Phase 2 of its reopening.

NJBIA supports the two bills.

“Everyone talks about the ‘new normal,’ but sometimes the new normal means small businesses and towns coming together to figure out what works best for that main street or business district,” said NJBIA Vice President for Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz. “That’s what these two bills do.

“These are common sense measures that local governments and the businesses they represent will need to get our economy going again,” Emigholz said. “They give local governments the tools to help businesses comply with social distancing requirements and reopen their operations safely and responsibly.

“In this case, the two bills will make it easier for municipalities to allow for business to be conducted outside, where social distancing is easier to maintain during a dining or retail experience,” he said. “This is about how the state is going to reopen its economy.”

S-2522 (Sarlo, D-36) would allow local governments to open certain roads to pedestrian-only traffic, closing the street to vehicles for designated periods. The bill would require the director of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue a special ruling to extend liquor licenses to cover this bill’s flexibilities. The special ruling would also establish outdoor customer seating requirements.

Additionally, S-2542 (Diegnan, D-18) would allow a municipality to suspend or temporarily modify specific provisions of a zoning ordinance to make it easier for businesses to resume operation during the COVID-19 emergency.  It also provides for a streamlined administrative procedure for the review of an application submitted by a business during the COVID-19 emergency, and to issue a business a “temporary zoning permit” to allow that business to operate in accordance with the terms of the resolution and the requirements imposed by the governor’s executive order.

Both bills would require a business getting these flexibilities to enter into an agreement to hold local government harmless from any claims resulting from any actions or inactions of the restaurant, bar or retail business, its staff, or its customers during the dates specified.

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