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Restaurants, casinos ordered to close indoor dining after 10 p.m. each night starting tonight
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Restaurants, casinos ordered to close indoor dining after 10 p.m. each night starting tonight


Angelo's Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City is among the dozens of restaurants who set up outdoor seating over the summer to account for state-issued directives concerning the novel coronavirus. As the weather has turned, Angelo's has begun moving diners inside under the state's 25% capacity restrictions.

Terry Glebocki, CEO of Ocean Casino Resort Atlantic City re-open to the public

Restaurants and bars across the state have been ordered to close indoor dining as of 10 each night starting Thursday, a new restriction to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases spike.

“To be clear, the last thing I want to do or any of us want to do is to shut our economy back down and, thankfully, we are not at that point,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday during a briefing in Trenton. “Looking at the data, we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread. No one up here wants to take the type of broad and all-encompassing actions like those we had to take in March. We are acting with more precision-based actions on what we are seeing on the ground.”

The order takes effect Thursday; all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges must close indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Murphy said.

Outdoor dining, takeout or delivery services may continue.

The restriction includes casino restaurants, Murphy said, but casinos’ “gaming operations may continue around the clock.”

Over the weekend, Atlantic City casino officials fought against tougher restrictions that would have reduced gaming hours.

“But after 10 p.m., no food or drink will be available to anyone inside the casino.” the governor said.

In addition, all bar-side seating will be prohibited “for the immediate future” starting Thursday, Murphy said.

He did say restaurants owners are allowed to place tables closer than 6 feet if they are separated by barriers.

Residents need to shake off the “pandemic fatigue,” Murphy said, before announcing another new restriction — that all interstate games and tournaments for indoor youth sports are prohibited.

“It is simply not safe for teams to be crossing state lines at this time to participate in indoor competitions,” he said.

Murphy’s order was met with angst and disappointment by some business owners and organizations in South Jersey.

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“I’m sick to my stomach,” said John Exadaktilos, owner of Ducktown Tavern and the Atlantic County representative on the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association. “Anybody who wears the same shoes I wear is nervous and mentally irate at the decisions because it does not make sense.”

Exadaktilos said small business owners were being punished and added that he has already told his 27 staff members to file for partial unemployment.

“Atlantic City is going to lose the little charm and hospitality that we have left,” he said. “What are we doing?”

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey questioned why Murphy’s order applies statewide, when the data shows that certain parts of New Jersey have been less affected than others.

“The CCSNJ respects Gov. Murphy’s decision to enact additional restrictions as the state again sees COVID-19 cases rise. However, the CCSNJ is disappointed that the governor has once again taken a statewide, one-size-fits-all approach, refusing to consider the vast disparities in health metrics throughout different geographical areas of the state,” the organization said in a statement Monday afternoon.

“The health and safety of New Jersey residents should always be the first priority, but there is no harm in assessing the data and making smart health and economic decisions that do not treat every area of the state similarly when the health data supports that approach.”

Weekend discussions between Murphy’s office and casino executives, business owners, and union leaders likely prevented even more drastic action.

According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the those conversations, a broader curfew was being considered that would have forced Atlantic City’s casinos to close for several hours each day.

Ultimately, the realization by state officials that such a measure would have irrevocably harmed the casino industry, and countless other ancillary businesses, led to a reconsideration.

“We’re not making money during the week right now and weekends are tough,” said one casino executive, who asked to remain anonymous. “If we had to close every night, some operators might have decided to keep their doors closed until (the restriction) were lifted.”

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey has increased by 2,075, to 256,653, Murphy said Monday.

There have been also been 11 additional deaths, bringing the state total to 14,640 with 1,800 other deaths likely due to the virus.

There are over 1,537 people hospitalized across the state, including 309 people in intensive care and 94 people on ventilators, Murphy said.

The positivity rate is 7.52%, while the rate of transmission is 1.24.

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Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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