After months of takeout and delivery service only, New Jersey restaurants can now open for outdoor dining. That’s what’s allowed in Stage 2 of New Jersey’s restart and recovery plan, before stage 3 - when the state will allow restaurants to expand their dining areas (we’ll update this page as we get more information on what that expansion looks like). The New Jersey Department of Health has laid out an executive directive for restaurants’ utilization of outdoor spaces (which you can read here, if you’re into sanitation jargon and the word “whereas”).
We’re unpacking the most important information below, to help you better understand what eating outside at a restaurant in New Jersey might feel like right now.
Will I have to wear a mask at my table?
Nope - as of now, diners at outdoor tables will not be required to wear masks. But you will have to wear one at all other times, including when you’re walking to your table, waiting to be seated, or picking up a to-go order.
Can I go inside the restaurant to use the restroom?
Yes - as long as you’re wearing a mask. According to the state’s executive directive, restaurants must “decline entry to the indoor portion of the establishment to a customer who is not wearing a face covering, unless the customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age.”
Will the restaurant staff have to wear masks?
Yes. The Department Of Health guidelines say that restaurants will “require all employees to wear face coverings” and “require employees to wear gloves when in contact with customers and when handing prepared foods or serving food, utensils, and other items to customers.”
What else will restaurants do to ensure a sanitary environment?
In terms of mandatory policies for outdoor dining in New Jersey, there are two big things to know:
All outdoor tables must be separated by a minimum of six feet in all directions, and communal tables will only be allowed if parties can remain six feet apart.
Restaurants will be required to conduct daily health checks for employees, like temperature screenings or questionnaires.
What else should I know about sanitation guidelines?
The New Jersey guidelines state that restaurants must, “require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like credit card machines, keypads, and counters to which the public and workers have access.”
Every restaurant will be required to provide hand sanitizer stations for its customers, and they’ll also be encouraged to provide digital menus and have guests wait in their cars before being seated.
Will I have to get my temperature checked before I’m seated?
No. Restaurants won’t be required to screen any diners or delivery workers. Although the CDC strongly urges you to stay home if you feel sick.
Do I have to make a reservation ahead of time?
While the state does not require restaurant reservations, the guidelines specifically recommend that restaurants “encourage reservations for greater control of customer traffic/volume.” Some restaurants do require reservations for outdoor dining (like Razza in Jersey City for example, so you may want to ask ahead of time. Lastly, if you do make a reservation, restaurants can require you to provide a phone number for future contact tracing purposes.
How many people can I bring with me?
There will be a maximum of eight people per table, and everyone at the same table must be in the same party. Restaurants with communal tables or communal bar areas will have to create a six-foot distance between different parties.
When can indoor dining start?
So far, the state has indicated that “expanded dining” won’t start until New Jersey meets the criteria for Stage 3 (New Jersey started Stage 2 on June 15th). That timeline involves six different principles. For example, the number of hospitalizations due to suspected Covid-19 needs to trend down for 14 days, while the availability of testing and contact tracing need to trend steadily up. You can keep track of New Jersey’s number of confirmed cases, tests, and other health data here.
All of this really makes me want a drink - can I go to a bar?
Just like restaurants, bars are allowed to use and create outdoor spaces. All the same rules apply - meaning each table will have to be six feet apart, you need to be seated to drink, and you won’t have to wear a mask while you’re at your table. But you won’t be able to drink inside until stage 3 of New Jersey’s restart and recovery plan, when bars will be allowed to operate with limited capacities.