RARITAN TWP, NJ - The Raritan Township Committee is working on making an outdoor dining ordinance passed earlier this year permanent.

The discussion was part of their Sept. 15 meeting.

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the committee in May, was triggered after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing for outdoor dining to return. It was in response to helping restaurants be able to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Indoor dining was set to resume in July until Murphy put the brakes on it due to spiking COVID-19 cases in other states. It wasn’t until recently that indoor dining resumed, but at 25 percent capacity.

Committeeman Lou Reiner emphasized that restaurants “cannot afford to pay 100 percent of bills with only 25 percent of their revenue.”

There was consensus on the committee to leave the ordinance as it is for the time being.

Committeeman Gary Hazard said leaving the ordinance in place would give restaurants additional capacity and help them recover faster.

“As the indoor increases, we leave the outdoor – not indefinitely – [but] I think we eventually come up with something that’s going to help,” he said.

One concern the committee is keeping in mind is the balance between outdoor space and available parking.

“We can’t have parking overflowing because we’ve now allowed [restaurants] to put up a tent in the parking lot if there is 100 percent capacity inside,” said Deputy Mayor Karen Gilbert.

Details of the ordinance still must be worked out before it is proposed.