“We’re halfway through June, another weekend goes by, and here we are. We’re open for outdoor dining only and at very limited capacity,” said Amy Russo, the owner of Toast City Diner, which has three locations in New Jersey.
“All the towns that we’re in, especially Asbury Park, has been trying to work with us to extend our premises and give us outdoor space and things like that, but, the bottom line is until we get indoor [dining] approved and, in a timely manner, we’re going to be in trouble,” Russo said.
The city of Asbury Park defied Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders by planning to permit restaurant guests to sit inside while dining. Restaurant dining rooms have remained closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After the plan was announced last week, a New Jersey judge granted the state an injunction, keeping diners like Russo’s from seating diners inside.
Asbury Park, a small city on the state’s coast, approved the resolution Wednesday, which would have allowed restaurants and bars to have limited indoor seating for customers starting June 15. According to the resolution passed by City Council, restaurants would have been able to host 25 percent of the dining room’s capacity, but the number of guests may never exceed 50 people, “regardless of the capacity of the room.”
As indoor dining is prohibited, Asbury Park is permitting Russo and other restaurant owners to allow people to dine on the “street” in order to help the businesses recuperate some revenue.
Russo said that after losing business from Labor Day through Memorial Day, they have now lost “three big weekends” in a row.
Russo said that dining outdoors is “weather dependent.”
“I don’t think there is any making up for the last three weeks,” Russo said.
“I’m down tens of thousands of dollars every day on a weekend day in the summer and months that go by.”