ASBURY PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — This time last week, restaurants across New Jersey were preparing to let customers eat inside for the first time in nearly four months.
As tables still sit empty, restaurant owners had July 2 circled on the calendar: the day they could finally let customers eat inside.
But, just three days before, the news came that indoor dining in New Jersey is now on pause indefinitely.
“To have the rug pulled out, it was really something that I believe there was no basis for,” Steven Botta, owner of Brando’s Citi Cucina, told CBS2’s Nick Caloway.
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By then, many restaurants had already hired staff back and ordered food in anticipation for more customers. Botta’s restaurant in Asbury Park brought staff back in for training, just to let them go again.
“It was really disheartening all around,” said Botta. “It was really a blow to the gut.”
It was also a blow financially. Down the street, Capitoline on Cookman Avenue had brought back all of its staff and hired 10 new people.
“Them reversing course constantly has been super-frustrating as a manager and an employee here because people gotta pay their bills,” said Aiden Ardine, Capitoline’s manager.
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One restaurant owner told CBS2 she ordered $6,000 worth of food for two restaurants that she could not use because of that sudden pause on indoor dining. The owner had to donate the food and take a loss.
CBS2 asked Gov. Phil Murphy what is being done to help restaurant owners.
“We had no choice but to put the brakes on it,” Murphy said. “I have nothing but sympathy for the small business community generally, particularly in hospitality, which has been crushed.”
Murphy pointed to the need for federal cash assistance to help small businesses.
“A very good use of that cash assistance would be to go directly to the small hospitality folks,” he said.
As for when indoor dining will be allowed, still no date has been given.