NJ bar to sue over indoor dining restrictions: The magic number is 50% capacity 'at a very minimum'

Mark Gleason says operating at 25% capacity is not 'economically viable'

The magic number to break even is “50%” capacity “at a very minimum,” the owner of a New Jersey sports bar, who is planning to sue Gov. Phil Murphy over indoor dining restrictions, said on Thursday.

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Mark Gleason, the owner of Gleason’s Place, told “Fox & Friends” that he is concerned the restrictions in the state could lead to “insolvency,” especially given restaurants and bars were forced to shut their doors for months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the state continues to battle the novel coronavirus, starting Sept. 4 all restaurants in New Jersey were allowed to resume dine-in service at 25% capacity with social distancing between tables, according to Murphy. The announcement came about six months after restaurants shifted to take-out models and outdoor dining service in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

Gleason said that going to work “for 25% of what you normally make” when you have to face “100% of your bills at the end of the month,” is not “economically viable.”

Host Steve Doocy pointed out that Gleason’s Place is not currently open because “it does not make sense” for Gleason “to turn on the lights, bring everybody back in, pay them, restock every couple of days” given he is only allowed to operate at 25% capacity.

Gleason said it would only make sense for him to reopen at “50% capacity” or more.

“We also have to remember this is coming off the heels of six months of 0%,” Gleason pointed out.

“If you did not have an outdoor dining space, you were not really in a position to operate effectively,” he continued, adding that the situation is “not a quick fix” and will be “a long-haul process.”

Doocy noted that Gleason’s attorney, James Mermigis, is representing about 100 restaurant and bar owners in New Jersey and New York who are suing over the state’s indoor dining limitations.

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Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City restaurants may open for indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning Sept. 30. The development came with a laundry list of regulations on how dining rooms may be reopened and came after restaurant owners warned of layoffs and closures with colder weather on the horizon.

Mermigis told Doocy that 25% capacity in the tri-state area is “not sustainable.”

“If you look at the weather in the New York City tri-state area, it's going to be in the 40s over the weekend and no one wants to sit and dine outside in cold weather. So the 25% is just not viable,” he said.

“There is not one restaurant in New Jersey that even pays their bills with 25% indoor capacity.”

Mermigis went on to stress that “we need to get it up to 50% for these small businesses to at least be viable and pay their bills.”

He pointed out that some restaurant and bar owners are apprehensive about joining his lawsuits because they fear potential “retaliation.”

“The biggest reason a lot of these restaurants in New Jersey do not want to sign up is they fear retaliation from the governor of New Jersey,” Mermigis said.

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“They’re afraid that if they sign up and they’re vocal about it that they might lose their liquor license or might lose their mercantile license or any other license so they’re fearful and that's why they’re reluctant to sign on to this lawsuit.”

Murphy did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Fox News’ Daniella Genovese, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.