TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Phil Murphy announced several major steps on the road to reopening Monday.

Murphy said indoor capacity will rise to 50% three days early, on Friday, May 7 instead of May 10. That will allow proms to take place over the weekend.

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Murphy said he will completely lift capacity limits on May 19, but some rules will still apply, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.

Indoor bar seating can also resume Friday, along with buffets at restaurants. But business owners told CBS2 the new rules may not do enough for them.

“As far as adding more tables and having people socially distant, it’s impossible. You can’t do it,” said Bob Fahey, who owns three restaurants & bars down the shore.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Fahey said the governor’s announcement allowing 100% capacity indoors is a step in the right direction, but won’t change much. Tables will still have to be six feet apart, so he won’t be able to add any.

Opening up bar seating will help, however.

“All impacted restaurant, tavern and bar owners should be prepared to ensure proper social distancing between patrons at their bars — either the CDC 6-foot requirement or physical partitions,” he said. “We are counting on restaurant and bar owners to enforce this guidance and prevent congregating at the bars. We have warned all along that those situations present a higher danger of allowing the virus to spread.”

Watch Gov. Murphy’s May 3, 2021 Press Conference

“If children can go to school and now be three feet apart, why can’t two adults sit at a bar and have a cheeseburger together?” Fahey said.

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The governor also moved up the timeline for several other reopenings initially set for May 10.

“We feel confident in moving up this timetable by three days, given the accelerated progress we are seeing in our vaccination program and hospital metrics and lower daily case counts,” he said.

Murphy’s announcement came in conjunction with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, as the governors plan to lift the following restrictions by May 19:

  • Remove capacity limits for outdoor gatherings, with social distancing and mask requirements
  • Remove capacity limits for indoor dining
  • Remove capacity limits for other businesses
  • Indoor gatherings up to 50 people
  • Catered events up to 250 people
  • Indoor venues up to 30% capacity

In two weeks, restaurants will be able to host tables of any size. It was limited to eight people indoors. New Jersey will lift the prohibition on buffets and self-service restaurants, too.

“This means that events we all associate with a summer, from fireworks displays to parades, to the state fair, can all go forward as long as attendees are keeping six feet of distance,” Murphy said. “Should the CDC… revise its 6-foot distancing guidance, we will revise our requirements accordingly.”

COVID VACCINE

The governor said the state is only able to make these moves because numbers are trending in the right directions as we work toward herd immunity.

The state also started Operation Jersey Summer, a public service campaign about getting vaccinated.

Murphy said his goal is to have 4.7 million people vaccinated by June. Currently, 3.2 million residents are fully vaccinated.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team