No food, no dice
Atlantic City casinos will reopen on July 2 after more than 100 days in timeout because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Borgata will not be one of them. After New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reversed course and announced on Monday that indoor dining would not be allowed to restart, Borgata officials decided to keep the property closed indefinitely.
New Jersey was one of the hardest hit states early on in the pandemic, second only to neighboring New York in most terrible categories, but because Governor Murphy and other government officials put strict health and safety measures in place, the Garden State has also made one of the best recoveries. As such, Thursday was supposed to be the day casinos, indoor dining, museums, libraries, and more were supposed to reopen with restrictions.
Governor is not messing around
Governor Murphy, though, took indoor dining off the list because he did not like the safety compliance – or lack thereof – of many establishments and New Jersey residents.
“Unfortunately, the spike in cases in numerous other states, compounded by instances of non-compliance in New Jersey, require us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining indefinitely,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Also still banned are any sort of food and beverage service by “retail, recreational, or entertainment business, including casinos,” as well as smoking.
Governor Murphy was less diplomatic in a Monday press conference, saying, “Compliance is not a polite suggestion. It is a requirement,” and referring to those who have not properly social distanced or worn masks as “knuckleheads.”
When asked how long he expects indoor dining to remain off the menu (pun completely intended), the governor said, “I don’t think it’s a matter of days, but a matter of weeks. We have enormous sympathy but the alternative here is worse and unacceptable.”
Casinos evaluating the situation
In short statement, Borgata management explained its decision to remain closed:
Our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed until such time that the Governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage.
The other eight Atlantic City casinos all still plan on reopening as scheduled on July 2. The three Caesars Entertainment properties – Harrah’s, Caesar’s, and Bally’s – are going to have smaller openings on Thursday just for invited guests before a full reopening on Friday.
In a somewhat vague statement, Hard Rock president Joe Lupo seemed to indicate that there is a chance his casino could go the same route as the Borgata, but it was still waiting on further details from the governor’s office. As of Tuesday, the Hard Rock’s July 2 reopening was still on.
Some lawmakers need to relax
It sounds like the governor did not inform state lawmakers that he was going to cancel indoor dining. Senate President Steve Sweeney told The Press of Atlantic City, “I just got off the floor and heard about it. I need to find out what the administration’s thoughts are.”
He added, “That was a huge, huge piece of opening the casinos. Who wants to go to a casino if you can’t get dinner or a drink?”
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party this year, was quite perturbed, saying, “This is no longer about safety. This is Governor Murphy forcing businesses to die.”
He continued his political rant, thinking that for some reason the governor wouldn’t want a massive money maker up and running: “I am completely disgusted and my heart aches for the pain these business owners are feeling after their dreams are being smothered by Governor Murphy’s cruel change of mind.”