Large entertainment venues can seat more people, Murphy says
Large entertainment venues will soon be able to welcome more visitors, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
The large venues have been working under different coronavirus restrictions for gatherings than most facilities — for instance, 10% of their capacity, as opposed to the 50% recently put in place for wedding receptions, or the 35% allowed for political activities protected under the first Amendment. But unlike those smaller gatherings, they don't have hard-number limits (for instance, 150 individuals at a wedding or political activity).
Effective Friday, indoor venues will be able to accommodate up to 20% of their normal capacity, up from the previous 10% limit. Outdoor venues will go to 30%, up from 15%. Murphy's also changing the threshold to be considered a large venue — down from a normal capacity of 5,000 people to 2,500.
The venues will be required to maintain 6 feet of social distance in assigned seating for guests.
Montclair's Wellmont Theater describes itself on its website as having a capacity of "nearly 2500," though some online directories list it as a little under or over that figure. A message left for the theater's staff Monday seeking information on how it might be affected by the change hasn't yet been returned.
The theater's next scheduled show is for the Beatles tribute "1964," on June 4, with reserved seating. That show had been rescheduled twice before, because of the pandemic.
Murphy also said the loosened restriction could allow for more fans at some scholastic sporting events, above and beyond allowances he made in February for a limited amount of spectators to attend.
"This is going to allow folks to be able to get more fans, assuming they do it responsibly, for instance, at high school baseball games," he said.
The governor said Monday he was making the changes to encourage more people to hold gatherings outdoors, as the weather improves.
"We know this virus is many times more transmissible indoors than it is outdoors," Murphy wrote on Twitter. "As the weather continues to get warmer, we urge everyone to engage in social activities outside whenever possible."
Murphy is also issuing executive orders allowing most outdoor gatherings to accommodate up to 200 people, up from 50. Most indoor gatherings will remain capped at 25 people.
There is no limit for outdoor gatherings for wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, religious activities, or political activities. Outdoor wedding receptions are limited to 150 individuals Outdoor performances at outdoor entertainment centers, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, are limited to a number that ensures that all people can remain 6 feet apart, but no more than 150 people, under state rules.
Indoor wedding receptions are capped at 35% of a rooms indoor capacity, with a hard limit of 150 people. On Friday, those rules will also be extended to all catered indoor events, which have been subject to the stricter 25-person indoor rule.