Outdoor Dining Now Allowed in NJ
It's 5:30am and I'm riding down the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk headed for Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, all the while thinking of another time I set my alarm this early to drink beer. I was living in Brooklyn during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. With the time change from South Korea, the matches were all aired well before dawn. I remember hopping on the subway to Manhattan to catch Ireland lose in penalty kicks to Spain in an Irish pub in the round of 16. Back then it was a Guinness with bangers and mash. Today, I opted for a nice stout with a pork roll sandwich to mark the first time you sit outside at an eatery since March, since Corona. . The audience in Atlantic City may have been smaller, but it felt even more epic.
A good two dozen customers turned out for the reopening celebration at the hall, which is part of Atlantic City's well known Orange Loop. The first two patrons were Bob McClain and Liz Buhl from Egg Harbor City. McClain's beer was poured by TABH owner Scott Cronick himself. He and the other masked owners and staff welcomed back clientele with breakfast sandwiches, all beers, Bloody Mary's, and mimosas for $5 each.
Dressed in a giant orange bow, the gate to the outdoor seating area was closed until precisely 6. Upon entry, the rules of masks and social distancing were explained. Masks are to be worn when up and away from your table and no standing socializing is allowed as tables were precisely measured for social distancing. Everyone was also encouraged to consult the virtual menu on the establishment's website as opposed to traditional menus.
Today's opening marks the first day since quarantine that eateries across the state of New Jersey are allowed to open for outdoor dining only, while many have continued to offer drive-thru and take out options during the pandemic. It remains to be seen when restaurants will be given the green light for full operation, but until then, I'll taking sitting outside on an early summer morning in Atlantic City any time. Cheers to reopening, one step at a time.
Michelle Tomko is a comedian and freelance writer from Atlantic City, New Jersey. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tomkomedy across all social media.