Gardner's Basin

The Gilchrist Restaurant, which has locations in Atlantic City, Galloway Township and Margate, returned to takeout Tuesday after one day of in-restaurant dining Monday.

After one day of opening its doors for in-house dining Monday in defiance of the governor’s orders, Gilchrist Restaurant returned to offering takeout only Tuesday.

Mike Barham, the restaurant’s owner, who said he believes people should have the right to choose whether they want to go out in public or not amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was issued a verbal warning Monday by the Atlantic County Division of Public Health per the state executive order.

But, Barham said, his reasons for going back to takeout only were not simply because of the warning, but also because Gov. Phil Murphy said restaurants can offer outside dining beginning June 15. Barham, who has three restaurant locations in Atlantic City’s Gardner’s Basin, Galloway Township and Margate, decided he can wait out the two weeks.

Gilchrist was one of about 150 businesses in the area that planned to reopen June 1 to show Murphy they can and will reopen safely. But many of those business owners, like local gym owner Chris Lambert, delayed their openings after peaceful protests gave way to looting and vandalism in Atlantic City on Sunday night.

The nationwide protests are in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody last week in Minneapolis.

Restaurants have been closed for in-house dining since mid-March because of the virus and are only allowed to offer takeout and delivery. On Monday, Murphy also announced that nonessential retail can open June 15, with salons and barbershops opening a week later on June 22.

While Barham reopened as scheduled, he was unaware of any other businesses in the county that reopened alongside him Monday.

“If we just got some businesses to open together and show some form of unity, that would be great,” he said. “But I think I’m the only one who opened in Atlantic County. It was a nice day of normalcy.”

Michael Chait, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, said he also did not know of any other businesses not already approved for reopening in Atlantic County that reopened Monday.

He declined to comment on Gilchrist opening for in-house dining.

“Every business is pushing to open safely, responsibly,” Chait said. “They’re not coming to the chamber and saying, ‘We’re open.’ We wouldn’t encourage any business to open and violate an executive order.

“However, we are collectively, all of us, advocating to get the business community open in a safe and responsible way.”

In doing that, the chamber is providing links on its website to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to provide a safe environment for customers and employees. Some of those guidelines include preparing workplaces for the prevention of COVID-19 spread and cleaning and disinfecting businesses for employees and customers.

Guidelines for outdoor dining also were provided by the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Chait said. The chamber is awaiting additional guidelines from the state Department of Health.

“We’re anxiously awaiting that guidance so that (businesses) can prepare to open on the 15th,” he said.

Contact: 609-272-7239

Twitter @ACPress_CJ

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