A silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic may well be a renewed interest in downtown Toms River, where officials and business owners have forged a partnership to establish outdoor dining, transforming the once-sleepy downtown area into something resembling a European square.
But colder weather is coming, and restaurants will only be able to survive for so long if indoor dining is not restored, Toms River officials said Tuesday, led by Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill.
“I’ve asked them repeatedly to open up movie theaters and indoor dining at 25 percent occupancy,” said Hill, referring to his weekly teleconference with staff from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.
Rubbing salt in the wounds of New Jersey business owners, neighboring states, including Pennsylvania have allowed indoor dining with occupancy restrictions.
“Right across the [Delaware] river from Trenton or Lambertville, you can dine inside,” said Hill. “They said they were thinking about it, and I said it was past time to think about it.”
Hill cited steadily declining hospitalization rates for coronavirus-related symptoms in New Jersey. According to statistics provided by the Department of Health, just over 200 people remain hospitalized and about 65 are using ventilators to assist with breathing across the entire state – but officials admit some of those cases do not include a primary Covid-19 diagnosis.
For Toms River officials, reopening access to indoor establishments is vital as cooler weather is on the horizon a month from now.
“Unlike the chains, our small busineses won’t be able to sustain this much longer,” said Councilman Dan Rodrick.