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Can retail stores and malls reopen? What are the social distancing requirements at retail businesses for customers, employees, and business owners?
Note: If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, percentage-based indoor and outdoor capacity limits will be lifted. Instead, businesses must limit indoor and outdoor capacity to a number that ensures all individuals or groups of people can remain six feet apart.
Retail stores may open so long as they follow mitigation requirements described below.
Indoor portions of retail shopping malls may also reopen and businesses must adhere to the same requirements as other retail businesses.
Any establishments that serve food or alcohol must comply with the health and safety protocols for indoor and outdoor dining, including any regulations municipalities or counties impose on the hours of operation of in-person restaurant service after 8 p.m. Retail businesses can allow customers to use self-service food, such as buffets and salad bars, but must limit self-service food and drink stations to those that can be routinely cleaned and disinfected.
Gyms, amusement parks, water parks, and movie theaters within malls may reopen so long as they follow required safety protocols.
See below for customer and employee guidelines and mitigation requirements for retail businesses.
Under Executive Order No. 192, all employees, customers, and visitors must wear a face covering while on the premises, except when an individual is under two years of age or where it is impractical like when eating, drinking, or receiving a service that cannot be completed while wearing a mask.
Employees, customers, and visitors who refuse to wear a face covering may be declined entry, except when doing so would violate State or federal law and provided the employer complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination where applicable.
Retail establishments must continue to comply with their existing obligations under the NJ Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and Americans with Disabilities Act regarding accommodations for individuals, which would include those involving covid-19 and masking. More information from the NJ Division on Civil Rights is available here.
Employers may permit employees to remove their face covering when they are at their workstation at least six feet from others or alone in a walled space such as an office. Employers must provide face coverings to their employees.
For more details and exemptions, refer to page 4 of Executive Order No. 192.
What to Expect
The following summarizes some of the protocols contained in EO 157, and EO 192. However, this summary is not a replacement for fully complying with the terms of EO 157, and EO 192, and businesses should read the full guidance carefully to ensure full compliance.
- Limit occupancy to 50% of maximum store capacity at one time;
- Limit total capacity of any outdoor area to a number that ensures that all individuals can remain six feet apart;
- Businesses must provide face coverings to all employees, and employees are required to wear face coverings while on the premises. Additional information on masking is outlined above.
- Establish hours of operation specifically for the exclusive use of high-risk individuals;
- Install a physical barrier, such as a shield guard, between customers and cashiers/baggers where possible and anywhere you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance;
- Arrange for contactless pay options, pickup, or delivery of goods wherever possible;
- Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the store alerting staff and customers to the required 6 feet of distance;
- Demarcate 6 feet of spacing in check-out lines to demonstrate appropriate social distancing;
- Businesses may adopt policies that require staff to wear gloves, in addition to regular hand hygiene. Where a business requires its staff to wear gloves while at the worksite, the business must provide such gloves to staff.
- Per Executive Order No. 183, smoking, including vaping, is permitted indoors only when otherwise permitted by State law.
Requirements to Protect Employees and Others
Employers must comply with the following requirements:
- Require workers and customers to maintain at least six feet of distance from one another, to the maximum extent possible;
- Provide approved sanitization materials for employees and visitors at no cost to those individuals;
- Ensure that employees practice hand hygiene and provide employees with sufficient break time for that purpose;
- Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with DOH and CDC guidelines;
- Prior to each shift, conduct daily health checks, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires, consistent with CDC guidance;
- Do not allow sick employees to enter workplace and follow requirements of applicable leave laws;
- Promptly notify employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite; and
- Clean and disinfect the worksite in accordance with CDC guidelines when an employee at the site has been diagnosed with COVID-19 illness.
Detailed requirements and exemptions for certain employers can be found in the full text of Executive Order No. 192.
Indoor Shopping Malls
Indoor portions of retail shopping malls may reopen so long as they follow the required social distancing and safety guidelines.
Retail businesses located in the interior of shopping malls are permitted to reopen to the public, as long as they comply with the requirements for retail businesses outlined above.
Retail kiosks located within malls may open and must also follow the same mitigation requirements for retail businesses and must also ensure customers remain six feet apart at all times.
Restaurants within malls may reopen so long as they follow the health and safety guidelines for food or beverage establishments, including any regulations municipalities or counties impose on the hours of operation of in-person restaurant service after 8 p.m.
Valet parking and communal play areas shall be closed at all indoor shopping malls.
Vending machines are permitted to operate in indoor shopping malls, provided that they are cleaned and sanitized in accordance with CDC guidance.
Stroller rentals and other rental services, including wheelchair rentals, are permitted to operate, subject to required mitigation requirements for retail businesses outlined above.
Arcades may reopen so long as they follow required social distancing and safety guidelines. For a full list of safety requirements, refer to sections 7 of page 13 of Executive Order No. 157 and the Department of Health's Executive Directive 20-023.
Movie theaters and performing arts venues within malls may reopen so long as they comply with required social distancing and safety guidelines. For more information about required mitigation measures, refer to this article.
Additional requirements for malls include:
- All areas with communal seating shall be removed or cordoned off. Isolated seats or benches available for individual use may be accessible, in order to provide customers with a place to rest.
- Indoor shopping mall operators should evaluate floor plans and establish policies to minimize congestion points and maintain social distancing, such as a customer flow plan with floor markings or separate entrance and exit points.
- With respect to the mall's own employees, mall operators must require infection control practices, provide employees break time for handwashing, and provide sanitization materials, among other requirements.
- Employees and customers must wear face coverings while on the premises, except where doing so would inhibit that individual's health or where the individual is under two years of age.
For a full list of mitigation requirements, refer to Administrative Order No. 2020-16.
Source: Quick Guidance for Retail Stores; Executive Order No. 157; Executive Directive 20-023; Executive Order No. 181; Administrative Order 2020-22; Executive Order 183: Executive Order No. 192; Executive Order No. 194