Rebuffed by the state, Morristown looks for creative ways to help restaurants expand outdoor dining

RE-OPENED FOR TAKEOUT: Swiss Chalet Bakery, Morristown, May 2, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Never mind that there’s hardly any traffic. The state still won’t let Morristown close parts of South Street to expand outdoor dining for restaurants desperate to rebound from the pandemic shutdown.

So the town may close side streets, create parklets and open parking lots when Gov. Murphy’s permission for outdoor dining kicks in on June 15, 2020, Mayor Tim Dougherty said at Thursday’s virtual planning board meeting.

“We have a lot of work to do over the next week to get ready to do what we can to open up the town, to get some semblance of normalcy into our economy in our downtown,” Dougherty said.

In addition to restaurants, the town’s non-essential businesses are poised to reopen on the 15th, the mayor said. With COVID-19 cases declining, the governor has authorized a second phase of openings–with many modifications including limiting indoor retail to 50 percent capacity–across New Jersey.

Saying he was “very disappointed” with the state Department of Transportation for nixing closures of South Street, a state thoroughfare, Dougherty added: “I think it should be a case-by-case basis. We’ve shut down South Street many times over the years.”

Together with the town council and the Morristown Partnership, the mayor said he will explore “easing up some restrictions and adding some parklets, using adjacent properties if the property owners are okay with it, using parking lots, (and) closing down side streets.”


Crowd at the Morristown Festival on the Green, Sept. 30, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Part of South Street shuts down every fall for the Morristown Festival on the Green. This crowd attended on Sept. 30, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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  1. Having looked into improvements for our restaurant facility, iron bar revolution, I’ve found that interior air quality can be remediate by retrofitting ultra violet systems which kill any virus which passes thru the units. Also our state of the art system brings in fresh air when carbon dioxide reaches mandated levels. This is code. Why is no one In government demanding this

  2. This is no longer science it’s political , and wrong, absolutely no common sense, killing of all small business,

  3. Yes, fight to open normally. Philippo Murpholini is ignoring science and violating our constitutional rights.
    That having been said, if South can’t be closed, can’t the parking spaces be used to expand the outdoor dining? Its not like anyone is using them.

  4. Why not fight to open normally? The state wants outdoor dining only and then blocks efforts. What next?