Mayor Steven Fulop announced that the city will take aggressive steps to help local small businesses prepare to reopen, once Gov. Phil Murphy lifts restrictions implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses across the city and state have closed their storefronts and moved services online or offered products through delivery or pickup.
To help them get them back on their feet, Jersey City’s plan includes testing for all employees of local businesses, providing each local business a reopening package that includes PPE and sanitizer once the business is tested, and a process for restaurants to expand outdoor seating to offset the loss of indoor seating due to expected capacity restrictions.
“After two months of these businesses being closed, we want to do our part to make sure that local businesses have the ability to re-engage their customers and build trust,” Fulop said. “We think customers knowing that all the employees have recently tested negative and are equipped with PPEs will allow this to happen. For restaurants specifically, we want to offset any reduction that the Governor may implement with indoor restrictions by allowing restaurants to have more seating outdoors.”
Straight from the horses’ mouth
According to the city, leadership within the Departments of Public Safety, Health and Human Services, and Housing, Economic Development & Commerce (HEDC) have held large focus groups with local business owners via Zoom over the last few weeks to solicit feedback and better understand the resources they will need.
The city will provide owners and employees with COVID-19 and Antibody Testing, in addition to a safety kit which will include face coverings, gloves, and sanitizers based on the number of employees at each business.
“We have been building a reserve of PPE for our employees, but after listening to local businesses say they are having challenges obtaining PPE, we feel that using our supply to help local businesses is a good use of our current supply so that these businesses can open quickly,” said Public Safety Director James Shea.
The city has created an easy application for any business looking to expand outdoor seating. Since Jersey City announced the application process on May 22 nearly 40 restaurants have applied.
“This pandemic has challenged everyone in many ways, and business owners have had the additional burden of trying to survive the pandemic in their business capacity as well,” said Director of HEDC Annisia Cialone. “The future of local business will not immediately return to the way it was, so we’re working to help them recover and get to that point.”
Newark Plaza expansion
On May 29 Jersey City announced it will expand the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza to extend outdoor restaurant seating along “Restaurant Row” and ensure safe pedestrian accessibility to help support social distancing and the restaurant community.
“We’ve worked proactively to think about what our residents and businesses need from us on a city-level to help them recover as quickly as possible,” Fulop said. “The Newark Ave. expansion will allow for restaurants to maintain their capacity as indoor seating will be limited. With the weather warming, after nearly three months in quarantine, our residents are understandably eager to get outside and enjoy all Jersey City has to offer, and we are prepared to offer that in a way that maintains the health and safety protocols in place.”
“This will benefit the restaurants by giving them room to expand and add seating, and help make up for what they lost over the past few months,” said Executive Director of the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District Rachel Sieg. “We’ve worked with some of the restaurants and they need to prepare. By giving them some guidance now, they’ll have what they need in place to be fully ready to reopen as soon as the state lifts the restriction.”
The Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall initially opened in 2015 and was expanded in 2018.
The latest expansion will allow for residents to practice social distancing, while also allowing Restaurant Row to increase outdoor seating and dining options by expanding further into the pedestrian plaza.
The Newark Ave. section is also getting a face-lift to improve aesthetics and make additional room for foot traffic and seating with furniture, pavers, trench drains, and tree plantings.
The curbs on either side of the permanent plaza will be altered for better stroller and wheelchair accessibility.
“We are getting creative to support our small businesses and create space for our residents to enjoy summer safely,” said Ward E Councilman James Solomon. “The opening of these streets to pedestrians and cafes is a great policy to do just that.”
The city is temporarily expanding the boundaries of the Newark Ave. Pedestrian Plaza for the summer along Grove Street from the south side of First Street to the north side of Christopher Columbus Boulevard, and Grove Street from the south side of Christopher Columbus Boulevard to the north side of Grand Street, which will be open for northbound vehicular traffic only. All lanes of Christopher Columbus Boulevard will remain open to traffic.
“Expanding both the availability of safe public spaces as well as seating areas for restaurants will be a great benefit to our residents and restaurants and the overall community and economy,” Fulop said. “It’s a win-win all around.”
Businesses can request testing online at https://www.cognitoforms.com/CityOfJerseyCity1/COVID19TestingRequestForBusiness
To submit an application to temporarily expand outdoor seating businesses can go to https://www.cognitoforms.com/CityOfJerseyCity1/temporarysidewalkcafeapplicationcovid19socialdistancing
Businesses that apply must meet certain health and safety protocols as well as any additional guidelines the state supplies once the restrictions are lifted.