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The New Jersey Business Coalition, a group of more than 100 leading business and nonprofit groups throughout the state, issued the following statement following Gov. Phil Murphy’s signing of Executive Order 158, temporarily pausing the resumption of indoor dining in New Jersey.

“New Jersey business owners have said from the beginning of this crisis that they always put the health, safety and welfare of their workforce and their patrons first. The reopening of indoor dining at New Jersey restaurants is no exception.

“While we respect the fact that other states are seeing a surge in COVID numbers, such a comparison, along with the concern of so-called “knuckleheads” not following the rules, is simply not a basis to pull back on New Jersey restaurant owners who are committed to doing the right thing.

“In response to the Governor’s original notice that indoor dining could commence on July 2 at 25% capacity, New Jersey restaurant owners made plans. We should recognize they invested in interior changes to their facilities, notified staff they can come back to work and spent considerable dollars to purchase food and beverages in order to meet the demands of the customers they were ready to serve.

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“Many restaurant owners have not generated the revenue to pay for these startup expenses over the past 15 weeks, and therefore, dug deep into their own personal pockets to restart their business.

“Respectfully, we ask: Who is going to reimburse these lost costs? Food, now at premium prices, has a very short shelf life. Additionally, how many times will restaurant owners be asked to train up a workforce only to send them back to unemployment?

“On top of all this, the Governor vetoed a bill this week that would have established an emergency loan program for qualified small hospitality businesses, using federal funds. Now, as a ripple effect, we see some of our Atlantic City casinos refusing this weekend to open due to this pause. This represents another blow to our tourism industry and New Jersey’s overall economy, which relies on casino revenues to fund important state programs.

“These businesses were willing to face insurmountable odds of surviving, while operating safely at 25% capacity. They know the losses that continue to rack up and they were, and are, ready to follow the rules and demand that their patrons do the same.

“As of earlier this month, between 20-23% of New Jersey restaurants that are shuttered will not reopen. With this false start, that number will undoubtedly escalate.

“We urge Governor Murphy not to pull back on those businesses that are able and willing to reopen safely because of bad actors. If some are not in compliance, enforce the order and hold them accountable. For the rest, let them open, as originally planned.”