Newark is imposing a nightly curfew on most nonessential businesses, including restaurants, as part of an effort to stem a second coronavirus wave that is threatening to strain the city's hospital system.
The measures went into effect at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The restrictions in New Jersey's largest city represent the first shutdown since Governor Phil Murphy issued a statewide order in March, and may be a sign of what lies ahead for other parts of the state dealing with virus outbreaks. The city of Hoboken announced this week that all restaurants and bars would be required to close at midnight daily starting Thursday. In September, the state allowed restaurants to reopen at 25% capacity for indoor dining.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced the plan on Monday.
At a news conference, Baraka described the situation as a "desperate moment." He pointed out that COVID-19 positive test rates were highest in the city's East Ward—25 percent compared to 11 percent citywide.
On Sunday, the mayor had tweeted that Newark had more cases than every other city combined in Essex County.
Under the order, nonessential businesses across the city must close to indoor customers at 8 p.m. daily, while parks in the East Ward area known as the Ironbound are prohibited from holding sporting events or team practices.
Hair and nail salons may stay open, but by appointment only. Health clubs, meanwhile, must undergo hourly closures to sanitize equipment.
The restrictions will deal another financial blow to businesses that have been struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Andres Rodriguez, who owns two restaurants in the Ironbound, which is mainly a nightlife district, said he worried that the emphasis on the high number of cases in the East Ward may leave the area with a stigma.
"People from outside of Newark are going to have a fear of going to dine in the Ironbound, and that’s going to hurt us more than the actual curfew," he said.
On Monday, New Jersey hit recorded 948 total hospitalizations, the highest since July, according to NorthJersey.com.