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NJ Cracks Down On Crowded Jersey Shore Bars As COVID-19 Cases Rise Among Youngest Patrons

D'Jais in Belmar.
D'Jais in Belmar. Photo Credit: @djais_belmar Instagram

Concern remains for loosening COVID-19 restrictions too fast as New Jersey continues to "open up" bars, restaurants and other businesses.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, have voiced worries about the widespread lack of social distancing at Jersey Shore boardwalks and its bars and clubs.

ABC-TV Eyewitness News and other media outlets posted video of D'Jais Bar & Grill in Belmar.

"Can you blame people for coming out and letting their hair down a little? I certainly can't blame folks for doing that, but we are going to have to tighten up," Murphy said, who then referred to D'Jais. "There's just no other way around it. Too many viral videos for my taste in the past 24 or 48 hours."

"Folks should know we can't look the other way," Murphy said. "There's one thing if there's a little noncompliance, but this stuff is out of bounds."

Morristown officials revoked the outdoor dining license of a local bar after photos and videos showing a crowded beer garden surfaced on social media last weekend.

Callahan and other state officials have said that residents between the ages of 18 to 29 make up a larger percentage of the state's COVID-19 cases in June than they did in April.

"The fact that asymptomatic and younger populations being key factors in transmitting (COVID-19), to see D'Jais and the boardwalks and those large crowds that are not socially distancing and no facial coverings gives us a tremendous cause for concern," Callahan said at a daily briefing.

D'Jais owner Frank Sementa responded to the frustration, telling the Asbury Park Press, "We promise to do better. . . "This week we got a bit overwhelmed."

John Bonevich, D'Jais' marketing manager, said half of Sauturday's patrons were turned away."It's a learning curve," Bonevich told app.com.

D'Jais has since changed the bar outdoors to a service bar only. More tables, more distance between tables and more signs, Bonevich said. Only two people are allowed inside the club at a time while wearing masks to use the restrooms, he said. One of the biggest problems is that while people wear masks in the outdoor seating area, they naturally take those masks off while eating and drinking, he said.

To make crowding potentially worse, Indoor dining at NJ restaurants is scheduled to reopen July 2, barring any reversals by Murphy.

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