Organizers of the huge Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival are hard at work selling tickets for the first weekend in June, while promoters of other similar events are stuck in a holding pattern waiting for Governor Murphy to relax restrictions. The beer fest is supported by two state-affiliated agencies – the New Jersey Lottery and Meet AC, which is funded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
“What do they know that we don’t know? What isn’t Murphy sharing with the rest of us?” asked New Jersey state Senator Declan O’Scanlon. “Hundreds of event planners remain in a Murphy-induced state of limbo while this event, a partially state-sponsored event, is selling maybe thousands of tickets. If they are doing it without any guidance from the state, that’s a hell of a risk given the slow-roll, business-devastating attitude the administration has taken over the last year. Event planners are dying – and dying for even the slightest hint that the Governor will hope to permit these events to take place.”
O’Scanlon said other events should be on the calendar, and Murphy’s reluctance to trust New Jersey businesses and residents is the only thing standing in the way.
“The rest of the state should be doing what the Atlantic City guys are doing. Selling tickets, drumming up business, and escorting in the summer season after a year lost to COVID,” said O’Scanlon. “The Governor must realize we may never be completely free of the virus variants, but we can’t be paralyzed by fear. We can trust residents to be mature enough to do the right thing, act responsibly, and have a good time without endangering themselves or others.”
Under Murphy’s current COVID guidelines, outdoor events are capped at no more than 200 people, and social distancing is required.
Governors in other states are announcing plans to end restrictions. On Monday, Connecticut Governor Lamont announced that all restrictions on businesses in his state would be phased out by May 19. It was a stark contrast to Murphy’s announcement on the same day, when he hinted that guidance on proms, graduation ceremonies and day camps “could be” … might be … gosh-darned we hope so, revealed before the end of the month.
“This ongoing drip, drip, drip messaging is devastating people who are trying to schedule events,” O’Scanlon said. “This is just more of his prolonged, torturous delay, signaling to people that it is very likely we will eliminate restrictions without committing to a target date.
“Unless the effectiveness of the vaccine is different in New Jersey than the rest of the world, and seasonality works different here than it did last year, our COVID numbers should be dropping dramatically by the first week of May. In fact, the numbers already seem to be dropping, just as they did this time last year.
“There is every indication that the Governor, like almost every other governor, should be signaling that it is likely we’re going to be ‘good to go’ with eliminating restrictions, and most certainly outdoor restrictions,” O’Scanlon added. “The time to signal that is now!”
O’Scanlon called on Murphy to provide a timeline and more clarity before the end of the week.
“Deadlines are passing and further delay is needless and unforgivable. Event promoters need time to finalize plans, secure vendors and market to a COVID-weary public,” said O’Scanlon. “It’s imperative the Governor commits to opening dates so businesses and organizers can make plans, hire help, and, like the Beer and Music Festival, sell some tickets, play some music and serve some customers.”