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.
As of Friday, More than 745,000 people in New Jersey had gotten a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Nearly 180,000 have gotten the second dose.
"This is clearly forward progress being made," Murphy said about increases in vaccinations in recent weeks despite supply still not meeting demand.
So far, more than 637,000 positive PCR tests have been reported in New Jersey. Another nearly 76,000 people tested positive with an antigen test.
With 93 new deaths related to COVID-19 complications reported Friday, the state has now reported nearly 19,700 confirmed coronavirus deaths. Another 2,187 deaths are suspected to be due to COVID-19.
Murphy hopes the Super Bowl won't lead to an increase in cases as he reminded people that the indoor gathering limit is 10 people.