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Aerial view of Elizabeth, New Jersey

Phase 2 Reopening: What to Expect

Things are heating up in Elizabeth, NJ, but we’re not talking about the weather. We’re talking about the heat from the kitchen as restaurants statewide welcome back diners starting June 15 after a months-long spell of takeout and delivery orders. 

That’s thanks to New Jersey’s practice of social distancing, which has created a downward trend of COVID-19 cases and deaths, allowing hungry patrons to dine out again as part of Phase 2 of New Jersey’s reopening plan. But there’s a catch—for now, only outdoor dining is allowed as the state continues its battle against COVID-19. Also part of phase 2 is the opening of nonessential retail stores as well as hair salons, barbershops, and daycare centers. But before we rejoice, what does this mean for Elizabeth, NJ?

Restaurants

Yes, we’ll eat out again, so that’s the good news. It helps that Elizabeth, NJ is a treasure trove of history with monuments and rich architecture that serve as the perfect backdrop for any outdoor dining experience. Eating under the stars in a historic city doesn’t sound like a bad alternative. Plus, Elizabeth, as a result of its close proximity to culinary mecca New York, also has a rich restaurant scene featuring the tastes of more than 50 countries. So really it’s a win-win situation.

However, we’re far from doing away with social distancing altogether, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and his statewide executive order. “Allowing outdoor dining and the expansion of alcohol-serving areas will allow restaurants and bars to begin welcoming customers back while continuing to comply with necessary social distancing guidance,” Murphy said.

In compliance with health and safety protocols issued by the New Jersey Department of Health, dining tables must be set at least 6 feet apart, all restaurant employees must wear gloves and masks, and there will be no more than eight people allowed to a table. Patrons will still have to abide by social distancing rules and reservations are highly encouraged.

This outdoor-only restriction may prove challenging for those restaurants that don’t already have al fresco dining. Luckily, the statewide ruling does allow food or beverage establishments to “expand their footprint to outdoor areas” including “sidewalks, streets, or parks,” and the same applies to Elizabeth. Portuguese favorite Valenca is taking advantage of the order by creating an outdoor dining space outside its establishment, according to its Facebook page, to accommodate hungry patrons longing for a sense of normalcy.

Retail & More

Shopaholics will also get their turn when nonessential retail stores reopen as well on June 15. In a Facebook video post, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage announced that retail stores are opening up at half capacity, and there will be “special shopping hours for those that are more vulnerable” as well as regular sanitizing at every establishment. These nonessential stores will be treated just like essential ones, Gov. Murphy said. “... Social distancing, markers on the ground, maybe some Plexiglas stuff,” he added. And shoppers will be required to wear a mask upon entering a store. This phase doesn’t include indoor shopping malls.

And the openings don’t stop there. On June 22, nail salons, along with hair salons and barber shops, will reopen in historic Elizabeth and across New Jersey. Just in time for summer, public and private pools are also slated to open June 22. Later on, July 6, the same rule applies for youth summer programs. Phase 2 also includes the reduced-capacity reopening of gyms, museums, and libraries, and some government offices, although no official date has been set yet. Effective immediately, the limit of indoor and outdoor gatherings increased to 50 and 100 respectively.

As summer heats up in Elizabeth, NJ, so will the offerings, bringing us closer to a new, and hopefully, better normal.