Lakewood, NJ – Lakewood police broke up two weddings with more than 50 guests on Tuesday night because both celebrations were in violation of the state’s ban on large gatherings.
Earlier in the day, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy banned assemblies of more than 50 people, NJ.com reported.
Murphy also told New Jersey residents not to treat coronavirus shut downs like “an extended spring break.”
But the governor’s prohibition didn’t stop at least two couples from going through with their plans to get married on St. Patrick’s Day, NJ.com reported.
Lakewood Police Captain Gregory Staffordsmith said officers responded to two different wedding venues at about 8 p.m. on March 17 and interrupted the ongoing celebrations.
Officers notified venue staff that gatherings larger than 50 guests were prohibited and ordered them to shut down the wedding receptions, NJ.com.
Captain Staffordsmith said both venues complied and the wedding guests and staff dispersed without incident.
“We stress that the public do their part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 by obeying the guidelines set forth by the State of New Jersey and encourage cleaning your hands often, staying home if you’re sick, covering coughs and sneezes, consider wearing a face mask if you aren’t feeling well, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and practice social distancing,” the captain said.
He said Lakewood police planned to stringently enforce the governor’s ban and were sending reminders about the 50-person limit to venues through the jurisdiction, NJ.com reported.
Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles said that both of the wedding venues that were raided hadn’t thought the new size restrictions had gone into effect yet.
Coles said the township attorney was looking into whether local law would allow them to enact fines or penalties against residents and establishments who violated restrictions established during the pandemic, NJ.com reported.
“You’d hope you wouldn’t have to with everything going on in the news,” the mayor said. “But if we stop this thing from spreading now, then we can get back to our lives more quickly… We need to respect the restrictions.”
He said the gathering restrictions were going to have the greatest effect on the Orthodox Jewish community, which makes up two-thirds of the town’s 100,000 residents, NJ.com reported.