By Kimberly Davis

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (CBS) — Gov. Phil Murphy is throwing another lifeline to New Jersey’s struggling bar and restaurant industry. Indoor dining will soon be allowed to increase to 50% capacity.

Restrictions continue to loosen in the Garden State. One welcomed change will help the service industry tremendously, one of the industries that has been hit the hardest over the past year.

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“Additionally, effective next Friday, same date, we are also announcing changes to our general gathering limits,” Murphy said.

On March 19, indoor dining capacity limits increase from 35% to 50%. It’s a big step closer to normalcy for restaurant owners.

“We took a big risk and we opened in the middle of the pandemic, in October, which was very hard,” Rida Massoud, owner of Li Beirut, said.

Li Beirut is a Lebanese restaurant in Collingswood, and opening up during the middle of a pandemic has not been easy, especially with state restrictions on capacity limits.

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“This is a really good opportunity for us to grow our business, as well as for the people to communicate and be around each other more, now that the vaccines are out,” Massoud said.

Gyms, salons and casinos will also be able to expand their capacity limits to 50%.

Employees will not be included in that count, and seating at bars will continue to be prohibited.

“We will continue to move deliberately, responsibly, incrementally guided by public health data,” Murphy said.

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These changes will go into effect starting at 6 a.m. next Friday.

Kimberly Davis