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Chris Emigholz

Christopher Emigholz, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs

NJBIA supports a package of four bills passed by the Assembly on Thursday that would help restaurants, bars and wedding venues by addressing the often-arbitrary operating capacity limits and other pandemic-related restrictions imposed by the state that are making it difficult to stay in business.

“Restaurants and other hospitality businesses struggling now under the current overly restrictive state mandates and are going out of business at an alarming rate,” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said. “NJBIA supports this legislative package because it supports this important industry with clearer and more sensible operating guidance.”

Food and beverage establishments have been hard hit by shutdowns and operating restrictions imposed during the pandemic, Emigholz said. Economic data tracked by the nonprofit research organization Opportunity Insights based at Harvard University underscores the industry’s plight.

“As of March 15, small business revenue is down 34.8% overall in New Jersey compared to January 2020, but in the leisure and hospitality industry revenues are down 60.8%,” Emigholz said. “During that same timeframe, the decline in open New Jersey leisure and hospitality businesses was 51.5%”

NJBIA supports four bills on the General Assembly’s board list for this afternoon that address some of the challenges that food and beverage and wedding venues have faced.

The first bill, A-5133, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), would expand indoor capacity for food or beverage establishments under certain circumstances, depending on the COVID-19 activity level in their region and if established safety measures have been met.

The second bill, A-5135, also sponsored by Assemblyman Greenwald, would establish statewide standards for the continued use of heaters and tents by food and beverage establishments during the COVID-19 health emergency.

The third bill, A-5136, also sponsored by Assemblyman Greenwald, would permit restaurants and bars to use Plexiglas or other nonporous barriers in seating areas where 6 feet of distance is not possible. This would allow food and beverage establishments to meet state-designated capacity limits that they could not meet before because their indoor seating was too close together.

The fourth bill, A-5139, sponsored by Assemblyman Roy Frieman (D-16), addresses overly burdensome regulations by allowing food or beverage establishment to seat patrons outdoors under temporary awnings or tents that are not certified to hold a snow load, provided there is no presence of snow when the tents are being used.

All four bills were unanimously approved by the Assembly.

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