New Jersey Governor Orders All Non-Essential Retail Operations Closed Indefinitely; All Employers to Limit On-Site Workers and Allow Remote Work to Maximum Extent Possible

Date   Mar 22, 2020

On March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Philip J. Murphy issued additional restrictions on New Jersey businesses in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 in the Garden State. Expansions to previously issued restrictions include the shuttering of all “non-essential retail” operations and a mandate employers limit on-site workers and allow remote work/telecommuting to the maximum extent feasible. Governor Murphy also directed all individuals to practice social distancing, cancelled all social gatherings and urged all New Jersey residents to stay home except for essential trips (including for food, medicine, and other essential supplies, medical treatment or social services), to perform or report to work in compliance with the Order, and to care for close family members.

Executive Order No. 107 directs the closure, effective Saturday, March 21 at 9:00 pm, of all non-essential retail operations. Exemptions from the ban include:

  • Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores;
  • Pharmacies and alternative treatment centers that dispense medicinal marijuana;
  • Medical supply stores;
  • Retail functions of gas stations;
  • Convenience stores;
  • Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;
  • Hardware and home improvement stores;
  • Retail functions of banks and other financial institutions;
  • Retail functions of laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
  • Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years old;
  • Pet stores;
  • Liquor stores;
  • Car dealerships, but only to provide auto maintenance and repair services, and auto mechanics;
  • Retail functions of printing and office supply shops; and
  • Retail functions of mail and delivery stores.

The State Director of Emergency Management, who is the Superintendent of State Police, may make additions, amendments, clarifications, exceptions, and exclusions to the list of “essential” retail businesses.

Essential retail businesses remaining open must abide by social distancing practices to the extent practicable while providing essential services, including reasonable efforts to keep customers six feet apart and frequent use of sanitizing products on common surfaces.

Restaurants, cafeterias, dining establishments, food courts, and bars may remain open during normal business hours, but are limited to offering only food delivery and/or takeout services in accordance with existing liquor licenses.

All recreational and entertainment business must close to the public until further notice. These businesses include:

  • Casino gaming floors, including retail sports wagering lounges, and casino concert and entertainment venues;
  • Racetracks, including stabling facilities and retail sports wagering lounges;
  • Gyms and fitness centers and classes;
  • Entertainment centers, including but not limited to, movie theaters, performing arts centers, other concert venues, and nightclubs;
  • All indoor portions of retail shopping malls;
  • All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children’s attractions;
  • Facilities where personal care services are performed that, by their very nature, result in noncompliance with social distancing guidelines, including but not limited to, cosmetology shops, barber shops, beauty salons, hair braiding shops, nail salons, electrology facilities, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo parlors, and public and private social clubs; and
  • All municipal, county, and State public libraries, and all libraries and computer labs and public and private colleges and universities.

New Jersey businesses and non-profits whose operations are not in retail, recreational or entertainment categories are free to operate, and employees are free to leave their homes to travel to work. However, these businesses, whether open or closed to the public, “must accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.” Where employees cannot perform their functions away from the workplace, the business or non-profit must “make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.”

The Order also directs that “all public, private, and parochial preschool program premises, and elementary and secondary schools” and institutions of higher education remain closed to students until further notice, with limited exceptions.

Executive Order No. 108, also issued on March 21, 2020, prospectively invalidates any county or municipal restriction that conflicts or might conflict with any State-level executive order, including Executive Order No. 107. Examples of such restrictions include but are not limited to:

  • Any additions to or deletions from the list of retail businesses deemed essential;
  • Any limitations imposed on any business’s scope of service or hours of operation;
  • Any density or social distancing requirements;
  • Any orders relating to the gathering of individuals; and
  • General restrictions on the freedom of movement within that county or municipality, including, but not limited to, the imposition of curfews.

Local authorities, however, may still issue restrictions as to municipal or county parks and “online marketplaces for arranging or offering lodging.”

Violations of the Executive Order are disorderly persons offenses, and carry penalties including imprisonment for a term not to exceed 6 months, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both imprisonment and a fine, in the discretion of the court.

If you have any questions regarding the issues addressed in this Alert, please contact the authors, Mark, and Keya Denner,, partners in our Berkeley Heights office. Of course, you may also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.

FordHarrison is closely monitoring the spread of Coronavirus and has implemented continuity plans, including the ability to work remotely in a technologically secure environment when necessary, to ensure continuity of our operations and uninterrupted service to our clients. We are following all CDC guidelines and state and local laws as applicable. We are committed to ensuring the health and welfare of our clients, employees, and communities while continuing to provide our clients with the highest quality service. Please see our dedicated Coronavirus Taskforce page for the latest FH Legal Alerts and webinars on Coronavirus, as well as links to governmental and industry-specific resources for employers to obtain additional information and guidance. For more information or to be connected with a Coronavirus Taskforce attorney, please contact