Murphy vetoes $30M to reimburse restaurants burned by his extended dining restrictions

by Samantha Marcus for NJ Advance Media

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday vetoed a bill that would have reimbursed restaurants that lost money when he pulled the plug on the planned reopening of indoor dining this summer.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, a bill sponsor, criticized the veto, saying “It is unthinkable that the governor would veto bipartisan legislation to help restaurants that passed unanimously in both houses.”

“We all know how difficult it has been for the restaurant business, and some owners said that they were out thousands of dollars due to the change. Restaurants are barely getting by.”

After announcing indoor dining could resume July 2 at 25% capacity, the governor reversed course a few days ahead of reopening, saying bar and restaurant crowds elsewhere in the U.S. were driving up coronavirus cases.

Bill sponsors said restaurants relied on Murphy’s reopening plan when they hired staff and purchased food and safety equipment, and the state should help them recoup their losses.

The bill (S2704) would have provided $30 million in loans or grants to restaurants harmed by the rescinded reopening, funded by the state’s federal CARES Act aid.

The Senate voted for the bill 38-0 and the Assembly 77-0.

Murphy vetoed the bill Monday, noting that he recently announced $100 million in new CARES Act funding for businesses, including at least $35 million for restaurants and bars.

“I applaud the sponsors … for their proactive efforts to assist New Jersey businesses during this critical time. However, following the recent announcement that an additional $100 million in CARES Act funding will be available to support New Jersey residents and businesses, including $35 million dedicated to food establishments, the goals of this bill have already been achieved,” Murphy said in his veto statement.