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NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka released the following statement regarding the partial reopening of health and fitness centers that was announced by Gov. Phil Murphy today.

Michele Siekerka

NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka, Esq.

“NJBIA supports today’s decision by Governor Murphy to reopen health and fitness centers because owners of these businesses are able, willing and eager to reopen their doors in a safe and responsible manner that puts the health, safety and welfare of their workforce and patrons first.

“However, we are disappointed that the governor’s current prohibition on indoor dining remains unchanged, even as neighboring states have already moved forward to lift restrictions.

“NJBIA has consistently maintained that creating public health and economic health are not mutually exclusive. Just as other business owners have reopened following state and federal safety guidelines, restaurants have deserved that same opportunity for too long.

“Many restaurants were already prepared for the original July 2 reopening at 25% capacity before the governor changed his mind. The odds are still long for restaurants to thrive with limited indoor capacity, particularly as we steer toward colder weather in the coming months when outdoor dining will not be as feasible. Continuing a ban on indoor dining, even as schools, health and fitness centers, and other businesses reopen, makes no sense and could be the death knell for many restaurants.

“New Jersey’s health and fitness centers, which had employed over 53,000 people, were hit hard by a five-month government-imposed shutdown, even though national data and surveys show that these facilities operating under appropriate guidelines, with good hygiene and social distancing, saw no increase in COVID-19 transmission.

“Today’s announcement is positive step for New Jersey health and fitness centers, and we urge the governor to act quickly to afford restaurant owners the same opportunity to save their businesses.”