City Hall of Jersey City
City Hall, Jersey City Times file photo

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop unveiled a plan on Fri., May 22, to help local businesses reopen once Governor Murphy lifts restrictions instituted in March that currently prohibit all but “essential” firms from operating as normal.

“After two months of these businesses being closed, we want to do our part to make sure that local businesses have the ability to re-engage their customers and build trust,” Mayor Fulop said.

While at times alluding to “local businesses” and at times mentioning “local small businesses,” the announcement did not make clear the size company that would benefit. Two parts of the program apply to companies in all industries; one element is designed to help independent restaurants specifically.

The first prong of the plan involves medical testing. The city will provide owners and employees with two tests: one for the virus itself and one for antibodies to it. Unsaid was where the testing would take place, how many people the city anticipates will need the exams, and how many individuals the city has the ability to test every day.

Also being offered “once the business is tested,” according to the mayor’s office, are  masks, disposable gloves, and sanitizer. Quantities will vary depending on the company’s staff size.

Leaders within the Departments of Public Safety; Health and Human Services; and Housing and Economic Development developed the plan after conducting large focus group Zoom meetings with local business owners.

“We have been building a reserve of PPE for our employees, but after listening to local businesses say they are having challenges obtaining PPE, we feel that using our supply to help local businesses is a good use of our current supply so that these businesses can open quickly,”said Public Safety Director James Shea.

Because restaurants and bars have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic — and will be amongst the last businesses anywhere to resume operating at full capacity — the city has also conceived a way to help this specific segment of the local economy.

For restaurants specifically, we want to offset any reduction that the Governor may implement with indoor restriction by allowing restaurants to have more seating outdoor,” Mayor Fulop said.

Restaurants have always been able to apply for outdoor café licenses. Now the city is waiving fees for those licenses (which cost several hundred dollars per year); suspending the requirement that the seating be bounded by fencing; and letting the areas take up slightly more sidewalk space than before. These concessions are being made to offset new restrictions restaurants must temporarily abide by stipulating that all tables (inside and out) be six feet apart. The outdoor cafes must also leave a pedestrian corridor along the sidewalk that is at least five feet wide.

Applicants who cannot meet one or both of these requirements are advised to contact the Jersey City Division of Engineering, Traffic and Transportation “to assist with an alternate plan” that may involve letting restaurants use parking spaces for seating. For the first time, restaurants may apply for or renew a sidewalk café license online.

For more coverage of Jersey City’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, please see Jersey City Times’ news section.

Header: Jersey City Times file photo

Deputy Editor Elizabeth Morrill has worked in business, not for profit fundraising and as a freelance copy editor. She holds degrees in American studies and education from Yale and Harvard.

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