New Jersey restaurant forced to stop outdoor dining at 4pm after maskless revelers crammed into bar

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New Jersey restaurant is forced to shut down outdoor dining at 4pm after at least 100 revelers are photographed crammed in bar area with no masks

  • Viral photo showed crowd tightly packed into outdoor dining area last week 
  • Patrons were standing close to each other at Portobello in Oakland, New Jersey 
  • Very few of the customers at the bar were seen wearing a mask on Wednesday 
  • Son of restaurant owner said security guards were inundated by overflow crowd 
  • Oakland council called meeting and voted to impose restrictions on restaurant
  • Outdoor dining will only be allowed to stay open until 4pm for next 30 days
  • Indoor dining can resume, though state law only allows 25 per cent capacity 

A New Jersey restaurant had its outdoor dining hours limited until 4pm after a photograph of maskless patrons who were packed close together at its outdoor bar went viral on social media.

The photograph showed scores of customers standing next to one another at Portobello restaurant in Oakland this past Wednesday.

The viral photo prompted Bergen County officials to call an emergency meeting on Monday night.

‘What I saw in the picture was a mob of people,’ Borough of Oakland Mayor Linda Schwager told NJ Advance Media.

A crowd of at least 100 patrons was photographed this past Wednesday crammed into an outdoor bar area while not wearing masks at Portobello restaurant in Oakland, New Jersey

A photo of the scene quickly went viral after it was widely circulated on Facebook

A photo of the scene quickly went viral after it was widely circulated on Facebook

‘No masks, no social distancing, and drinking.

‘You don’t think that calls for a special meeting to find out what happened and what we can do?’

Schwager added: ‘We cannot allow this to happen.

‘This was a violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, and our Borough Ordinance, and the public safety for all.’

A local council meeting attended by the borough attorney, the chief of police, and the zoning enforcement officer was held via Zoom on Monday evening.

The council voted to shut down outdoor dining at the restaurant at 4pm every day for a period of one month. 

Prior to the punishment, the restaurant’s outdoor dining area was allowed to stay open until later. Closing time at the outdoor bar was 11pm.

Portobello’s owner will have to appear before the council sometime within the next three weeks in order for the restriction to be lifted.

The order will be enforced by the local police department as well as the health department, according to council members.

‘Portobello will comply with the municipality’s decision,’ said Vincent Amen, the son of the restaurant’s owner, Frank Amen.

‘As we proceed, Portobello will reassess internal COVID procedures to ensure the unfortunate event of Thanksgiving Eve will not occur again.’

Vincent told The Bergen Record that the crowd that packed in on Thanksgiving Eve was an ‘anomaly’ and that it ‘won’t happen again.’

The viral photo drew the attention of local public officials in Oakland, who voted to force Portobello restaurant (above) to close every day at 4pm for 30 days

The viral photo drew the attention of local public officials in Oakland, who voted to force Portobello restaurant (above) to close every day at 4pm for 30 days

He said that the restaurant hired more security guards to deal with the anticipated influx of people that is common on the night before Thanksgiving.

‘We have six security guards at the entrances; we’ve hired off-duty police from Wayne and Oakland, and have been doing everything we can to comply with local, county and Alcoholic Beverage Control rules,’ Vincent said.

‘I wasn’t there, but those who were said they’ve never seen anything like it.’

Vincent said that the guards check customers’ identification and masks before they enter the outdoor bar area.

Portobello requires its customers to wear masks ‘except when drinking,’ according to Vincent.

Its indoor section has seats for 400 diners, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the state government to limit indoor dining to 25 per cent capacity, Vincent said.

Its outdoor patio section has 70 seats. After the pandemic hit, it expanded to an outdoor parking lot where it added another 160 seats.

Vincent said that the state does not limit the number of patrons for the bar area.

The state does, however, require restaurants to force their customers who cannot socially distance to wear masks.

Portobello is a restaurant that also has a catering and banquet business next door.

Vincent said that the night before Thanksgiving is a busy bar night as locals return home and get together with old friends just prior to the start of the long holiday weekend.

‘We did anticipate a bit of a larger crowd. And we had some issues, because the people were pushing through,’ he said.

Vincent said that local police came to help security disperse the crowd, though he was unsure if this happened at or before closing time. 

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