New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Provides Winter Outdoor Dining Guidance

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — Last week, New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs issued a number of different outdoor dining-related guidelines for restaurants to follow throughout the winter.

Any restaurants that want to continue utilizing tents for outdoor dining after November 30 are required to apply for a permit to do so via the Uniform Construction Code (UCC). Restaurants will also need to apply for permits for other outdoor equipment, such as heaters and cooking equipment, through their municipalities. The state is also encouraging local governments to waive application fees for these permits if their tents meet snow-related requirements.

“We recognize the restaurants in our state have been hit extraordinarily hard by the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to help these businesses stay afloat until we can return to more normalcy,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a press release. “The guidance issued today is part of our effort to help ease the burden this pandemic has placed on eating establishments. We are leaving no stone unturned as we work to assist the restaurant community.”  

The deadline to apply for these permits was November 30. However, municipalities are allowed to offer two-week extensions to this deadline in order to allow restaurants to remove any existing tents and have new ones ready for the winter months.

According to a release, “dining domes” — structures including igloos and bubbles, among others — can be used for outdoor dining without a UCC permit as long as they’re smaller than 120 square feet in area.

New COVID-19 cases have hovered around the 3,000-4,000 mark for several days statewide. Because of this, Gov. Murphy has taken action to limit certain indoor gatherings, including a suspension of indoor sports at the high school and adult levels effective December 7. Despite these changes, indoor dining’s overall capacity hasn’t been decreased from 25% by the state since September 4.

Gov. Murphy, however, has recently barred restaurants and bars from operating indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. as COVID-19 cases rose in New Jersey.

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