New Jersey restaurants frustrated as state slows pace of coronavirus reopening

New Jersey is one of the states hardest hit by coronavirus

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Restaurant owners in Asbury Park, New Jersey, are feeling helpless after a state judge halted the city's plans to allow reduced indoor dining.

Restaurants can serve patrons outside, but Asbury Park's City Council is pushing for indoor dining at 25 percent of building capacity or 50 people, whichever leads to fewer diners. The resolution to allow just that was set to kick in on Monday -- until the court order.

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"Our restaurants are struggling to employ people and to actually even stay open," Asbury Park City Council member Eileen Chapman told Fox Business' Kristina Partsinevelos.

City officials are telling business owners not to violate the court order, resulting from legal action brought by the state amid lingering concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., listens to President Donald Trump speak during a meeting about the coronavirus response in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., listens to President Donald Trump speak during a meeting about the coronavirus response in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, originally announced Friday that his administration would sue Asbury Park after the state was unable to work things out with the city, he said.

"Our rules are based on one principle – ensuring public health," Murphy wrote on Twitter.

Murphy addressed the local frustration during an interview with NBC's "Today" on Monday.

"We were the second hardest-hit state in America. ... The virus indoors is far more lethal than when it's outdoors so we've got to be very careful," Murphy said. "We'll get there.

"The decisions, they're not arbitrary. They're based on facts and data," he said.

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New Jersey entered Phase Two on Monday, meaning restaurants can reopen with outdoor dining and nonessential retail locations can open at 50 percent capacity.

Barbershops and hair salons will open next week, Murphy said.