MOORESTOWN, NJ — Restaurants and bars in Moorestown can begin serving food and drink outside immediately after Township Council passed a resolution allowing them to do so temporarily Wednesday night.
Moorestown Council also unanimously approved a proposed ordinance on introduction that allows restaurants to expand their footprint to allow outdoor dining amid the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday night.
The proposed ordinance will go before the planning board Thursday night before coming back to council for a public hearing on July 13. Planning Board Member John Logue said he anticipates the board will find the proposal conforms with the township’s master plan during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting.
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The ordinance is under consideration after Gov. Phil Murphy said bars and restaurants could reopen for outdoor dining on Monday as of 6 a.m. on June 15.
Changes to local law to allow for the institution of outdoor dining must be amended through local ordinance, but there is a provision in the governor's executive order that allows restaurants and bars to operate under a resolution while they await the public hearing and final vote on the proposed ordinance.
Any restaurant that wants to expand its footprint will have to apply for a permit. In their plan, they must spell out how they will do it and how they will do it safely, complying with social distancing guidelines and safety measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
They must also show how they will keep customers safe from vehicular traffic, as well as where trash cans will be located, what lighting will be used and what constructs will be used to expand outdoor seating.
Restaurants that have a liquor license will have to get a separate approval to serve alcohol outside, and anyone who brings their own alcohol to BYOB establishments will not be considered in violation of the law for drinking outside.
Restaurants will have to get permission from neighboring businesses, including from owners and tenants where applicable, to expand their footprint.
Councilman Mike Locatell was concerned that a neighboring business owner might regret granting permission if things don’t go the way they expect.
The township has the right to revoke a permit at its sole discretion for that reason and any other number of unforeseen circumstances.
If a restaurant owner changes anything about the setup once their plan is approved, their permit would have to go back before the township for further evaluation.
The township can’t be held liable for any incidents that take place in these expanded areas.
Compliance oversight will be handled by the Zoning Office, the Construction Office, the Police Department and Fire Officials.
If approved, the ordinance will remain in effect until unrestricted indoor dining resumes. This means the restaurant is able to serve to its maximum capacity again.
If indoor dining returns but restaurant capacity remains restricted, outdoor dining will be allowed to continue. At no point will a restaurant be permitted to serve beyond its designated maximum capacity.
The planning board’s special meeting to discuss the proposal takes place Thursday night, June 18, 7:30 p.m. Members of the public can participate in the special meeting via teleconference just the same as if at an in-person meeting. The Chairman will open the floor for public participation in accordance with normal protocol.
To join the meeting, dial 856-914-3095, state your name, then hit the pound sign (#) after saying your name and you will be joined with everyone.
Telephonic capacity is 20 members total, including the board. Anyone who can't get connected to the teleconference should email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately for assistance.
See related: NJ Coronavirus Updates: Here's What You Need To Know