As spring approaches, outdoor dining beckons

North Bergen revives 2020 regulations

Broadway was closed for outdoor dining as part of the Eat and Shop Local events in 2020. Photo by Art Schwartz.
×
Broadway was closed for outdoor dining as part of the Eat and Shop Local events in 2020. Photo by Art Schwartz.

As the winter comes to an end, North Bergen will allow outdoor dining for restaurants under the same conditions as last year.

In 2020, the township adopted ordinances allowing for outdoor dining on sidewalks adjacent to restaurants and outside restaurants on private property. Restaurants were required to file an application for outdoor seating with the Building Department.

If a restaurant filed an application last year, and it was approved, the township will continue to honor the agreement. If information provided in the application has changed, a new application will be required. This includes changes to restaurant owners, property owners, insurance information, or the configuration of outdoor seating.

Restaurants that did not file in the past can apply now. Forms can be found at northbergen.org. The process is free. For more information, call Pete Hammer at the Building Department, 201-392-2051.

North Bergen allowed restaurants to use outdoor dining during designated street closures, known as “Eat and Shop Local.”  It adopted protocols for the use of portable propane or electric heaters and will continue to enforce safe heater usage.

State expands capacity

On March 19, restaurants were allowed to increase their indoor capacity from 35 to 50 percent.

In February, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that sets up a framework for municipalities to allow restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries to continue to use outdoor spaces or public sidewalks as extensions of their businesses.

Many municipalities, such as North Bergen, have taken these steps since Murphy authorized outdoor dining in June 2020. The bill aims to reinforce and expand guidelines from last year.

“As we weather the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continually trying to find new and innovative ways to aid our state’s business community while not sacrificing our public health,” Murphy said. “This bill will give our restaurants more certainty for the future so they can once again lean into the outdoor expansions we allowed this past summer to help recoup losses and strengthen their businesses and the jobs they support.”

The bill extends the period of permits issued under an ABC special ruling last summer that allowed alcoholic beverages in outdoor spaces. Restaurants will now be able to maintain the permit through November 30, 2022, or the date at which indoor dining returns to full capacity, whichever is later. The extension will be automatic for all permitholders.

The legislation establishes protocols for municipalities to approve outdoor space expansion requests by restaurants without liquor licenses and those with liquor licenses that have not previously obtained expansion permits.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.