RARITAN TWP, NJ - Raritan Township has extended its outdoor dining rules, allowing restaurants and bars to continue to offer outdoor seating throughout the winter to help them cope with the state of emergency declared by Gov. Phil Murphy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m glad we are making these adjustments,” said Mayor Jeff Kuhl prior to Tuesday night’s unanimous committee vote to extend the provision until April 2021.

“We’re doing the right thing,” added committeeman Lou Reiner.

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Restaurants have been hard hit by the COVID shutdown that lasted into the summer. Even now, they’re only allowed to open with indoor seating at 25 percent capacity.

Over the summer, Raritan Township Committee members discussed making the outdoor seating ordinance permanent. The measure was discouraged by the township attorney, as it might conflict with other zoning laws.

Instead, he recommended extending the temporary provision.

The revised ordinance allows for temporary outdoor lighting as long as it doesn't spill into neighboring properties or create a safety hazard as determined by the zoning officer. It also allows for outdoor heaters, gas fireplaces and chimineas, although it bans open fire pits.

Restaurant owners must apply for a zoning permit to provide outdoor seating, and receive approval from the zoning officer.

According to online review site Yelp, more than 30,000 restaurants have permanently closed across the country due to COVID, including popular eatery Jake’s Pub on Route 31 in Raritan Township.