Murphy signs bill extending outdoor liquor permit deadline

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed into law a bill aimed at extending a permit deadline letting bars and restaurants serve alcohol outdoors as part of the state's response to COVID-19.

The bipartisan legislation passed the Democrat-led Legislature last month with no opposition.

"As we weather the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continually trying to find new and innovative ways to aid our state’s business community while not sacrificing our public health," Murphy, a Democrat, said.

The legislation extends permits issued by the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control division made last summer that expanded where businesses with liquor licenses can serve alcohol to include outdoor locations.

Under an order from the division, the expansion was supposed to last through November 2020, but the law expands it to Nov. 30, 2022, or when indoor dining returns to full capacity — whichever is later.

The new law comes the same day that Murphy expanded indoor dining capacity. It rose to 35% for restaurants and bars, up from 25%. The governor said declining hospital admission rates from the coronavirus led to his decision to increase capacity.

But he has also been under pressure from political rivals calling for the reopening of businesses, which have been hurt under the governor's executive orders limiting capacity.