New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Vetoed One Outdoor Dining Bill Because It Took Too Much Power Away From Zoning Officials. Will He Do That a Second Time?

Garden State lawmakers have unanimously passed two bills now allowing restaurants to keep their outdoor operations running so long as their indoor dining rooms are restricted.

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Politics is preventing New Jersey's restaurants, bars, and breweries from obtaining some much-needed protections and certainty about their outdoor dining operations.

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have guaranteed these businesses' right to use parking lots, sidewalks, streets, and other outdoor spaces for serving food and drink while the governor's COVID-19 emergency order remained in effect. So long as their temporary spaces or outdoor structures had been lawfully used during the pandemic, local officials had to issue them permits within 15 days.

The problem for Murphy was that the legislation, A4525, took away too much power from local zoning officials to reject permits or charge fees for the permits they would issue.

"Municipalities would have almost no ability to reject an application based on public health or safety concerns, such as a proposed expanded area's proximity to a school or church, or a licensee's previous violations," said Murphy in his statement.

The veto caught many by surprise given that A4525 had been passed unanimously by the legislature back in November after months of debate during which the governor had ample time to voice objections and request changes.

This week, lawmakers fast-tracked a slightly amended version of that bill which gives municipalities more flexibility to deny permits for health or safety reasons, allows them to charge fees for these permits, and gives them more room to restrict businesses' nighttime hours of operation.

That slightly amended bill is currently sitting on Murphy's desk, who has 45 days to sign it or veto it. If he does neither it goes into effect by default.

"It would be great for Gov. Murphy to sign this as quickly as possible because there are thousands of small businesses and small business employees out there in New Jersey that are hurting and need as much help as possible," says Christopher Emigholz of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. "Here's help the state can provide that doesn't cost anything, that doesn't jeopardize any health or safety standards that we have."

New Jersey currently limits restaurants indoor operations to 25 percent capacity. No more than eight people are allowed at a single table (unless they are from the same household), and tables must be at least six feet apart.

Restaurant reservations in the state are down some 40 percent compared to this time last year, according to OpenTable. The number of small businesses open in the state has declined 34 percent from January 2020.

Outdoor dining has been one of the few deregulatory silver-linings of the pandemic. Local governments across the country have proactively waived all manner of permits, fees, and regulations that previously tripped up businesses trying to set up some tables and chairs on a sidewalk or, God forbid, a parking space.

These outdoor set-ups can be a lifeline for businesses trying to survive while their indoor dining rooms are closed or required to operate at reduced capacity and many would-be diners are playing it safe by eating at home.

The risk for business owners is that they'll end up spending thousands of dollars converting their parking lot into a dining patio only to have the government decide to suddenly shift course and shut down their on-site operations all over again.

New Jersey's outdoor dining bill is aimed at giving Garden State restauranters some much-needed certainty that this lifeline won't be yanked away from them so long as their indoor operations remain restricted.

Emigholz tells Reason that it's possible that Murphy will sign the amended bill lawmakers passed this week, but that another veto was still possible. Typical Inter-branch rivalries between the governor and the legislature, he says, played a role in stymying the legislation.

Yet there's still hope the interests of struggling small business owners might outweigh the governor's commitment to the preservation of zoning officials' power and politics as usual.

NEXT: Trump Has Been Impeached—Again

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  1. Nobody cares what a NJ schmuck like him thinks.

    1. If the governor can veto a bill that passed unanimously, he’s got *way* too much power.

      1. Welcome to Nazi Jersey!

        1. Oh, to have that much freedom!

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      2. Lord God Murphy was (and still is) a Goldman Sachs executive. He views the legislature as subordinates.

        He’s openly stated that he isn’t concerned with small business. After all, he’s a Goldman Sachs man. It’s other people’s money to him.

      3. Is there no override provision in NJ?

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  3. Fuck Murphy. He’s an asshole.

  4. If you don’t know the answer, you haven’t been paying attention.

    And Fuck Phil Murphy.

    1. Yes…you simply cannot say that enough: FUCK PHIL MURPHY

      1. I approve of these comments.

  5. New Jersey’s outdoor dining bill is aimed at giving Garden State restauranters some much-needed certainty that this lifeline won’t be yanked away from them so long as their indoor operations remain restricted.

    Yeah, that’ll be great in February when the temperature stays in the 20s.

    This isn’t going to end until businesses rise up and open en masse. One-offs aren’t going to do it.

    1. We could always storm the state capitol to break the chains that bind us. Oh, wait, don’t the liberals call that an insurrection when it happens against them?

      “‘They now pretend to discover plots and plans of slavery, in statutes by which they and their fathers have lived and even in their very charters on which they were first settled; and by their champion, Dr Price (Donald Trump), they now kick charters, compacts, statutes, and precedents all out of doors, as useless things, affording no rule by which to try the reasonableness and justice of their new and exorbitant claims’.

      That’s what the British were saying about the Americans way back when the Declaration of Independence was written. They sound a lot like the Democrats in Congress now.

      Revolt. Burn it all to the ground and let’s start over again. The acts of rebels and patriots look like insurrections to those people who are being rebelled against.

  6. “These outdoor set-ups can be a lifeline for businesses trying to survive while their indoor dining rooms are closed or required to operate at reduced capacity and many would-be diners are playing it safe by eating at home.”

    Sure, in the southern and west coast states. Outdoor dining in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Minnesota in the middle of January is not such a pleasant prospect.

    1. I wouldn’t expect New Jersey to be a better prospect for outdoor dining in January than the upper Mid-West states.

  7. Phil Murphy is utterly incompetent, with a touch of venality. There are no two ways about it. You’d have thought we would have learned our lesson, when we elected the other Goldman-Stunod reject, Jon Corzine. But no, Phucking Phil is in a class all by himself.

    His policy to put covid-19 patients into nursing homes killed many elderly nursing home residents. It was directly contrary to the known science at the time. Yet he chose to do it. For this, he should be condemned for all eternity.

    But wait, it gets better. This phuckhead shuts down everything, and is merrily destroying our NJ economy. Memo to Phuckhead Phil Murphy: The small businesses are not coming back. Restaurants are gone (20%+). Local shops are boarded up. They weren’t ‘essential’, according to Phuckhead Phil. He closed our churches and synagogues. He stopped our having funeral services.

    More than anything, that stripping away of dignity, our livelihoods, our houses of worship, our rights to be fully autonomous human beings; that is why I have contempt for him. Damn him to hell for doing that to us.

    1. Phil doesn’t have a single original thought in his tiny brain. He takes all of the cues from Cuomo.

  8. Most retarded state governments (in order):

    1. CA
    2. NY
    3. NJ (previously #4)
    4. MA
    5. RI
    6. IL

    1. NJ is trying as hard as it can to be at the top of that list.

      1. It’s good to have five year plans goals .

    2. RI is significantly overrated there. And where’s Michigan? Covid shenanigans and Flint shows that neither party has a monopoly on stupid.

  9. “…aimed at giving Garden State restauranters….”

    C’mon guys, this is 2021. Do you not have spell check on your systems? There is no such word as restauranters.

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  11. I am so glad I moved out of that state years ago. The people in n New Jersey have the government that they voted for and deserve.

  12. Strange that you seldom hear of Gov. Murphy in the media, considering that his state has the highest per capita death rate from Covid in the entire country. Must be the magic (D).

  13. I’m embarrassed to have this ferret-faced freak as my Governor (and – no – I cannot say that three times fast).

  14. RI is significantly overrated there. And where’s Michigan? Covid shenanigans and Flint shows that neither party has a monopoly on stupid. source: gbwha for ios

  15. Thx for all!!

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