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Year-round alfresco dining could be on the way in Jersey City

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Sidewalk meals can be there to stay, even after the cold weather arrives.

A new ordinance introduced in Jersey City Council next week would allow restaurants and eateries to apply for permits to set up outdoor restaurants year-round.

Under current rules, Jersey City restaurants can apply for seasonal permits that allow them to operate between March 15 and November 30. Restaurants may offer sidewalk meals between December 1 and March 14 only when temperatures exceed 55 degrees.

But under the new ordinance, restaurants can apply for year-round permits that would allow them to operate year-round, provided the approved sidewalk café uses appropriate heaters. The order asks to allow fees to be waived during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

John Gondevas, general manager of Jersey City, Hamilton Inn and Hamilton Pork restaurants, said the effectiveness of year-round alfresco dining will depend on the severity of winter.

If it’s 5 degrees, how do you give someone a burger and fries? Gondevas said. Even with the heaters and everything, I can’t really, really see it working. But I will try.

But with indoor catering still limited to 25% capacity, any balmy day would be a boon to the restaurant industry, he said.

Even if we had 20-30 days of alfresco dining all winter, that would help, he says.

The move comes as COVID-19 cases spread across the state and in Jersey City. The city has already registered 216 cases so far in October, up from 201 in total for the entire month of September.

Restaurants have been able to eat indoors at 25% capacity since Labor Day weekend. Last month, Hoboken announced plans for year-round outdoor dining.

But on Friday, despite an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. Phil Murphy hinted that increased catering capacity inside could come sooner or later.

We believe responsibly, unless the roof falls in the next few days, we could achieve a larger capacity there, Murphy said during his daily press briefing.

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