On the road to outdoor dining, NA gets it, Kearny doesn’t

Restaurant owners have suffered dearly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have closed, likely never to reopen. Others have hung on, barely. But things are about to change, hopefully for the better, now that outdoor dining has been given the thumbs-up by Gov. Philip D. Murphy.

On the road to getting things up and running, the Borough of North Arlington (and several other local towns) have led the way on how to do it right.

Conversely, the Town of Kearny got caught with its pants down.

N.A. has streamlined the process. (See the details in story in this week’s newspaper.) It is possible for restaurant owners to begin their outdoor operations perhaps the same day an application is submitted.

Kearny says it wanted the process to be easy, too, but it’s already started the process way too late in the game by introducing an exhaustive, laboring ordinance that may not go into effect until weeks after June 15. To hear some elected officials in Kearny lamenting how difficult it’s been for restaurateurs over the last three-plus months was nauseating and laughable.

Why, given how bad it’s been for the owners, did it take until June 9 before any discernible action took place in Kearny? Why, like in North Arlington, couldn’t Kearny have been better prepared for this? It’s not as if the idea of outdoor dining was something that just popped up out of nowhere when the governor offered the June 15 date for things to commence.

This is something the Kearny mayor and Town Council could have been preparing for in March, April and May, when discussions on how to reopen began.

Instead, they waited until June 9 to kick off the process. And because of their inaction, restaurant owners will likely have two more weeks of takeout-only business, which clearly isn’t enough.

This delay — coupled with the reality that the town is not making this process easy by any means — could be the difference between survival and extinction for some eateries. It’s just another reason why Kearny remains such business unfriendly town.

So we take this time to give thanks to the towns that have done this the right way, especially N.A. It’s just an abhorrent shame that Kearny got this so very wrong.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.