ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — New Jersey restaurants will receive another $35 million in federal coronavirus relief aid under legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.
To be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), the funds are grants that will be made available to restaurants, bars, breweries, brewpubs and wineries, and do not have to be repaid. The state EDA allocated an initial $35 million in aid to restaurants last fall.
Calling the new round of funding a “game-changer,” Murphy said it will help dining and drinking establishments get through the remainder of the pandemic and help them be “poised for a stronger future once it’s over.”
“Our restaurants and bars and breweries and wineries are a critical part of our state, our economy and our culture these are not just small businesses. These are places where communities come together and which also help define a community,” said Murphy during a bill-signing press conference held on April 9 near the Atlantic City boardwalk.
But while the state in March increased indoor capacity at these dining and drinking establishments to 50% and has allowed them to expand operations outdoors, Murphy said, “We’re not out of this yet … and margins — if they’re positive at all — remain razor-thin.”
Dana Lancellotti, CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, cited the crushing effects the pandemic has had on the restaurant industry — the largest private sector employer in New Jersey, representing more than 300,000 jobs in “normal times.”
“We've seen these restaurants experience a devastating blow in this past year,” she said. “One-third of our food service establishments in New Jersey closed since COVID hit, and we know that many will not come back," she said, adding that most of the 90,000 jobs lost in the food service industry alone were held by women and minorities.
“Dining establishments that have managed to endure through the brutal challenges by adapting, reimagining and reinventing themselves continue to navigate an unstable and uncertain future,” Lancellotti said.
While calling the new funding for restaurants “a promising and much appreciated start,” she also pointed out that hospitality businesses, including hotels, banquet facilities, amusement centers and wedding venues, have not received any COVID-19 relief opportunities that target their specific needs.
“We look forward to exploring more recovery assistance on behalf of hotels and venues, as well as restaurants, to elevate the prospects for the future of these business sectors, our overall economic recovery and the quality of life here in New Jersey that we long to enjoy once again,” Lancellotti said.
The bill (A-5444) signed into law — sponsored by Senators Vin Gopal and Joseph Lagana, and Assemblymen Vincent Mazzeo, Pedro Mejia, Christopher Tully, and Louis Greenwald — is part of a five-bill, $100 million relief effort aimed at helping New Jersey’s small businesses recover from the yearlong pandemic.
Below is Gov. Phil Murphy’s bill-signing press conference on the restaurant relief aid.
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