New Jersey to sue seaside city over plans to reopen indoor seating at restaurants

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(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Friday said the state will sue to stop the Jersey Shore city of Asbury Park from opening restaurants to indoor seating on Monday in defiance of a statewide order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Asbury Park’s City Council on Wednesday passed its own law to allow inside dining beginning Monday.

That move comes after Murphy said he was allowing indoor gatherings of up to 50 people or 25 percent building capacity, whichever is lower, but specifically noted that didn’t include restaurants.

Asbury Park is a seaside resort town roughly 35 miles southwest of New York City that is popular with gay tourists, live music fans and dog owners who enjoy its pet-friendly beaches.

Asked about Asbury Park’s defiance at a press conference on Thursday, Murphy vowed “enforcement” and said “We cannot have one set of rules for one town and one set of rules for another town... We move as one state guided by science, period.”

On Friday, he said the state reached out to Asbury Park officials to try to convince them reverse the restaurant plan.

“Unfortunately they have not done so,” Murphy said. “The attorney general will be bringing a lawsuit to enforce our orders.”

Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

On her Facebook page, Quinn said the city was simply expanding Murphy’s order to include food and drink. “Executive Order 152 allows indoor gatherings of up to 50 people or 25% capacity the only thing we did is added the ability to eat or drink.”

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; Editing by Aurora Ellis