Governor’s Decision Was ‘Heartbreaking’ to Business

By ED SALVAS and DON STINE

Heartbreaking. That’s how Executive Chef Ken Samuels at the Avon Pavilion described the governor’s decision to postpone indoor dining.

Samuels had been hoping to bring back more employees to serve in the dining room but is now unsure if he can do that.

“We’re just paying the bills but we won’t see a profit this year,” Samuels said.

The Avon Pavilion has been serving on the outside deck with 15 tables, usually they have 45. Samuels said they have also been providing meals to go and delivering to the beach and their boardwalk snack and ice cream window is open.

Last week Gov. Murphy said indoor dining would be allowed starting July 2 as long as social distancing was followed and if restaurants kept to 25 percent capacity inside. But on Monday he abruptly changed his mind saying some bars were not following his guidelines so he said no one could open inside.

Mike Simko, owner of Simko’s Grill at 1311 Route 35 in Neptune, said that not allowing restaurants to reopen indoors by using examples of poor social distancing at bars is like comparing oranges to apples.

“Bars are bars, they are not restaurants,” he said.

He said nightclubs and bars should be placed in the last phases of reopening, along with gyms, etc.

“Nightclubs really don’t even have chairs. They are social places, not a place to eat. This is crazy to blame the spike on them and then close restaurants- it hurts restaurants and that is wrong. People are in restaurants to eat- not talk and socialize. In bars, they are there to socialize- and only socialize. I can’t believe the governor can’t see this. It is just killing us and I predict you will see more and more restaurants closing by wintertime, many for good,” he said.

Simko also said that he just spent money on advertising for his reopening, called in staff for retraining, and purchased more provisions.

“It’s like just ripping money up,” he said.

Simko’s remains open for outdoor dining.

Danny Reynolds, owner of Danny’s Place, 2104 Sunset Ave. in Wanamassa, said the Governor rescinding the July 2 date does not affect him much. His small restaurant only has six tables and now outdoor dining.

For us it really doesn’t matter and, at 25 percent, we could have only had seating at two tables.

“But for the bigger fish they must  be livid,” he said.

He knows that the larger restaurants have been ordering and prepping, food and other supplies,

“They were looking forward to opening and I feel their pain. I really do feel for them,” he said.

Danny’s Place still has outdoor dining weekdays from 7 am to 2:15 pm and from 7am to 12:45pm on Saturdays. The restaurant in closed on Sundays.

Tim McLoone, owner of three Asbury Park boardwalk restaurants, sees the decision to delay opening for inside dining as a disappointment for his customers.

“I think people were rooting for the restaurants, McLoone said, “but it leaves us 100 percent weather dependent.”

McLoone said his landlords at Madison Marquette in Asbury Park and Kushner Properties in Long Branch as well as the municipalities have been very helpful and supportive during the crisis. He also said he wished the governor would share more information supporting his decision.

“We shouldn’t be punished for the Knuckleheads who violated the social distancing orders,” McLoone said.

At the Blue Swan Diner in Ocean Township, co-owner Mario Magriplis said his staff has been working harder than ever to meet the challenge, serving meals outside in a large tent in the parking lot, with take out and delivery, but it doesn’t help the cash flow.

“We’ve been following all the rules, but you can’t reinvent your business every week.”  He also feels sorry for businesses that can’t do outside dining. Magriplis said the problem is that big government doesn’t understand small business.

Anthony Pagano at Pagano’s Uva in Bradley Beach said he’s OK with the governor’s delaying of indoor dining, saying it would be tough to be ready to open on the July 4th weekend. They have 190 seats inside and have been doing well with 60 seats outside. But he is concerned about the future.

“I just hope we don’t have to close down again. I hope everyone stays safe.”

The owner of America’s Cup Coffee and Tea in Asbury Park, Ross Blanco, questioned why the Governor didn’t just fine and close the bars where people stand around and drink and don’t serve meals. “Don’t penalize the sit down restaurants.”  Blanco thinks the Governor was under such pressure to open inside dining he was looking for any excuse to  delay the opening.

Posted in Asbury Park City Desk, Shore Communities and tagged , .