Governor re-tightens indoor gathering limits, as Greater Morristown restaurants close

Message on website of La Campagna Ristorante.


By Tyler Barth

Blaming packed house parties for new outbreaks of COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday re-ratcheted limits on indoor gatherings.

“Unfortunately, the actions of a few knuckleheads leave us no other course. We have to go back and tighten these restrictions,” the governor said.

New Jersey’s previous guidelines limited indoor gatherings to 100 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever was lower. Under Monday’s revised guidelines, gatherings are restricted to 25 people or 25 percent of capacity — again whichever is lower.

“The only way we can get to where we want to be with indoor activities is if EVERYONE plays by the rules and no one tries to make end-runs around them,” Murphy said in a tweet.

Religious activities, memorial services, weddings, and funerals are exempt from this new restriction. Outdoor events remain capped at 500 people.

The latest revision came as New Jersey’s transmission rate hovered at 1.48 percent–higher than the 1.0 benchmark that indicates the pandemic is spreading. The benchmark means that every infected individual is transmitting the novel coronavirus to at least one person.

Murphy also reversed course in mid-June, abruptly scrubbing plans to allow limited indoor dining.

Since July 22, at least three Morristown restaurants — the Morristown Pancake House, Nunzio’s Dolce Vita and La Campagna Ristorante — have closed their doors. So has the Market Taverne, an upscale Harding establishment with a Morristown zip code.

The Market Taverne owners said they are losing their business “because of the blanket decision by our governor to take away indoor dining from all restaurants instead of simply suspending liquor license for those bars whose owners and patrons violated the safety protocols.

“It’s a sad day 30 employees now unemployed and we lost our livelihood…(a) local family independently owned business,” the owners posted on Instagram.

The Tashmoo Bar and Grill made headlines when it was closed after the restaurant’s owners failed to abide by guidelines and allowed more than 100 people, many without masks, into a makeshift Morristown beer garden on June 19.

Murphy called bars and patrons who refuse to follow the proper guidelines “the ones who ruin it for everyone else.”

“It’s tough for all the restaurant owners,” said John Baldassarre, owner of the Stirling Tavern, in the aftermath of the dining rollback. “A couple people broke the rules, and unfortunately we all got penalized for it.”

When restaurants go down, the damage ripples through other businesses.

“We can’t survive like this,” said David Balsamini, owner of the Morristown Game Vault. “A lot of businesses, we haven’t made a single cent.”

The popular downtown arcade traditionally relies on the patronage of people waiting for their restaurant reservations. It has remained mostly empty since reopening four weeks ago.

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  1. Equally important IMHO is that all of the restaurants in Morristown be given equal treatment in their requests for outdoor dining.

  2. The governor’s talking points have gradually shifted from emphasizing hospitalizations, critical care and intensive care capacity to almost exclusively new case counts. The NJ Covid Dashboard has removed reporting on total hospitalizations and capacity. The only conclusion to reach is that covid related hospitalization is no longer a meaningful statistic and that they are immaterial. The curve flattened months and months ago, to the point where it has flat-lined and no longer exists. Yet the fear mongering continues.

  3. Thank you for making sense Claudia.

    Yes it is far greater Mary Ellen. Will you answer the questions the others couldn’t? How much economic ruin will you put up with before you allow reopening? Secondly, how much freedom will you choose to give up in order for protection from your government ?

    Why don’t you want to shut down the economy every single flu season, if over 50k lives are lost EVERY season due to it and no one bats an eye? Is it because you only care about a slightly more infectious disease? If that’s the case, what measurable threshold do you use to make your determination whether to care or not (genuinely curious)?

    You and others prefer the emotional nonsensical argument that 1 life lost to a virus is worth extreme amounts of economic suffering for thousands of families, then brow beat people with emotions that your position is more humane. Its laughable. I have a feeling you never had the responsibility of running a business and being in charge of providing the money for food, insurance, and housing needs to many of your employees and their families.

  4. I totally support our Governor! Unfortunately letting people make their own decisions is like asking a 3 year old what we should do;(Actually the 3 year old would would make a smarter decision than the people that are making bad decisions). It’s the bad decisions that are making it harder and harder to contain this virus. Oh and I prefer no one gets infected and no one dies. No the economic risk is NOT greater than the health risk…. Human beings are more important.

  5. What a shame. Let ALL businesses open and let people make their own decisions whether they want to go out or not. It’s called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. We all know more now then we did in March…wash your hands and wear a mask.

    The economic risk is far greater then the health risk.

    DO THE MATH. There are 9.2 million people in NJ. Today there are 184,000 cases which mean .02% of population in NJ is infected … BUT 99.98% are JUST FINE. Today, unfortunately, there are 15,846 deaths. This translates into an even lower ratio of .0017% deaths BUT 99.9983% of the population is JUST FINE!

    The governor needs to stop with his power and control routine. OPEN UP NEW JERSEY!