Restaurants, bars and breweries would be allowed to sell food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, to patrons dining at outdoor tables set up in parking lots, on local roads or in other public rights-of-way that have been approved by the respective municipal or county government under a bill approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.

Under a recent executive order by Governor Phil Murphy, restaurants and other establishments are now permitted to reopen to serve customers outdoors only. Some eateries that did not have outdoor dining space, or not enough, have sought approval from local governments to set up tables in parking lots or other spaces to serve patrons. However, under current law, businesses would also need to seek approval from the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

This bill (A4190), sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem) and Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) would allow businesses to serve customers in public rights-of-way that have been approved by local authorities, as well as on their own property in patios, decks, yards and parking lots during the COVID-19 emergency. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control would issue a special ruling within seven days of the bill’s enactment to permit licensed businesses to sell food and drinks in authorized outdoor spaces without submission of an application or fee.

Assemblymen Burzichelli and Johnson released the following statement:

“The restaurant industry has suffered significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing restaurants, bars and breweries to reopen for outdoor dining is a safe step forward, but it can be challenging for businesses that don’t have outdoor dining space or are facing municipal restrictions or liquor license regulations. The process for applying and receiving approval from both their municipality and the State to serve customers outdoors normally takes several months, and at great cost. That’s time and money most restaurants just don’t have right now. This legislation will help get more businesses back on their feet quickly.”