HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Restaurants are eager to reopen to customers once again. Owners struggling during the shutdown say safety will be their first priority.
But is it too soon?
Imagine Washington Street in Hoboken shut down to traffic, people eating at tables six feet apart in the middle of the road. As CBS2’s Jessica Layton found out Tuesday, it’s one councilman’s vision. Michael DeFusco said Hoboken can be a blank canvas for business as we continue to fight COVID-19.
If cabin fever plus better weather have you thinking about dining alfresco, DeFusco is right there with you.
“Hoboken nights, love to eat outside. We love our cafés and right now people are jones-ing to get outside,” DeFusco said.
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But the lawmaker said he is concerned about the uphill battle against coronavirus closures facing restaurants and shops that have been shuttered since March. He said they’ll most definitely need help.
“Safety is first. Social distancing is not going away. But we need to work within the parameters and make sure that our businesses are going to succeed,” DeFusco said.
He’s proposing closing down some streets for tables so customers can dine on those streets, while vendors sell their wares on the sidewalk.
In a tweet, Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla backed the idea being tested in bigger cities like Tampa, Fla., saying “closing streets during certain hours to help our businesses with additional outdoor table space when it’s time to re-open is a great idea and one we’ve been exploring.”
Closing streets during certain hours to help our businesses with additional outdoor table space when it’s time to re-open is a great idea and one we’ve been exploring along with an expansion of sidewalk cafes, waiving certain fees, and more. https://t.co/btxXvtoh88
— Ravinder S. Bhalla (@RaviBhalla) May 5, 2020
But when will it be time to reopen? Gov. Phil Murphy still hasn’t issued guidance on that.
“I’m sorry, we can’t give you more definitive guidance yet on things that were working on. By the way, nonessential retail I hear morning, noon, and night,” Murphy said. “We still have people getting sick, going to the hospital.”
“So with all due respect, this is the fight of our lives,” Murphy said.
But struggling business owners say it’s got to be balanced with the fight for their livelihoods. Chris Wood owns Woody’s Ocean Grille in Seabright and said even if he’s allowed to do more than take-out this summer, he’s running out of time to get ready.
“It’s not a flip of a switch. It’s gonna take some time. We’ve got to get employees, we’ve got to get food products,” Wood said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult for the restaurant industry.”
Back in Hoboken, Layton asked the Councilman DeFusco what closing streets would mean for first responders trying to get around. He said that is something they’ve talked about and the fire and police chiefs would have to sign off on the proposed plan.