Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is poised to file a suit forcing Asbury Park to keep diners out of restaurants, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.
The news comes two days after the elected officials in the Democratic stronghold announced they would allow indoor dining in the shore town renowned for its music scene, nightlife and restaurants.
“We have worked with the governing body of Asbury Park to try to amicably resolve the issue of their resolution regarding indoor dining. Unfortunately, they have not done so,” Murphy said. “We have one set of rules, and they are based on one principle, and that is ensuring public health.”
The conflict between the progressive governor and officials in a town where he won 84% of the vote against former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in 2017 is the first instance of public conflict over the state’s reopening between Murphy and local officials of his own party.
Republicans have lobbed criticisms at Murphy over his response to COVID-19 for months, claiming his restrictions were too severe and too long in place, but the few executive order violations seen in recent weeks were made largely by individual businesses and people, without the blessing of elected officials.
Even after the Asbury Park City Council announced it would allow restaurants to serve customers inside at 25% capacity, to a maximum of 50 customers and staff, Republican towns in Murphy’s home county of Monmouth have kept their reopenings within the bounds allowed by the governor’s orders.
“We’re going to abide by the governor’s edict. We’re not going to go off the reservation,” said former Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl, who held the post for 16 years before stepping down in 2018. “We may not like it, but we’re going to follow it.”
Guadagno carried Rumson with 63% of the vote in 2017, and yet the town isn’t bucking the governor. Asbury park is.