By CBS3 Staff

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey has taken another step on the road to recovery. The state has relaxed restrictions on indoor dining, as well as on salons and gyms.

Gov. Phil Murphy recognizes the challenges restaurants are facing during this pandemic and moved forward with increasing indoor dining from 25 to 35% starting today.

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It may only be 10% but to those in the restaurant business, that’s a big deal.

Murphy acknowledged the brutally cold temperatures add an extra strain on eating establishments.

“Throughout the fall, relatively mild weather kept many of these outdoor dining areas busy but as winter has now closed in, many restaurants are facing a dire season and dire moment, so as of today, this morning all of our restaurants can expand indoor dining to 35% up from 25%,” Murphy said.

While some restrictions remain, people are expected to go out this weekend. Ponzio’s Diner in Cherry Hill has a wide array of pastries in its bakery section, and of course, football cakes are a big hit.

As we head into Super Bowl weekend, the slight increase from 25 to 35% for indoor capacity will make a big difference for a large establishment like Ponzio’s.

“Our capacity is 480 seats so when it was 25%, we were maxed at 120. Now we can go to 168, but technically we can only go to 150, so technically we’re increased by 30 customers. This is beneficial for us because it can mean about six to eight different parties coming in and not have to wait anymore. It’s beneficial for us,” Nick Fifis said.

Natalie Rios brought a crew along for lunch. The only thing they’re adjusting to is where they can find the ketchup.

“I felt comfortable, they’re doing a good job in there trying to separate customers and the tables, and how they’re bringing people in, so we felt all right about that,” Rios said.

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In addition to indoor dining capacity increasing to 35%, the additional capacity also extends to gyms, casinos, hair salons, recreational venues and religious ceremonies.

And just in time for Super Bowl weekend, Murphy also signed an executive order eliminating the 10 p.m. indoor dining service cutoff.

Murphy also signed a bill today giving municipalities the opportunity to allow businesses to use sidewalks and outdoor spaces to expand their businesses and outdoor capacity.

CBS3’s Alecia Reid and Dan Koob contributed to this report.


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