NEW JERSEY - Bar service and buffets return in New Jersey Friday as restrictions continue to ease due to declining COVID cases as the state vaccinates more people.
The Garden State is also increasing the outdoor gathering limits to 500 people, raising indoor capacities to 50% up to 250 individuals for political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services and performances after Governor Phil Murphy moved up the date. Privately catered events will also be permitted to have dancing.
Murphy has promised to get 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated by June 30. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli has said the state would meet that goal.
The buffet restaurant business took a hit during the pandemic
"We expected it to be two weeks and now we were shut down for 13 months to the day," manager of International Buffet Andy Li said.
In fact, the International Buffet in Mount Holly just reopened three weeks ago and patrons still couldn’t touch the food, servers had to do it. That all changes Friday, masked and gloved, you can pile food on your plate yourself.
Restaurants and bars in New Jersey can open their bars for actual service for the first time in over a year.
"I’m feeling comfortable with things myself and hopefully with more people vaccinated we can open up more even safer," New Jersey resident Bob Bickel said.
Jojo Zhou has been wearing many hats at Yokohama in Maple Shade during the pandemic. She is short-staffed and says they will need extra hands when the bar stools are full.
"I usually have two bartenders. Now, I have none and how will that be and what are you do well I am all on my own right now," she said.
New Jersey will lift all COVID-19 outdoor gathering limits and remove a 50% capacity limit on indoor restaurants and bars beginning on May 19 as long as social distancing can be maintained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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