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Correction: An earlier version of this story said this applies to restaurants. The governor's office Thursday morning clarified the order, saying it applies only to self-service food/buffets at retail businesses like grocery stores, convenience stores and bodegas.


Remember buffets? You walked past trays full of everything from salad to prime rib to pasta, all the time dishing generous portions onto your plate?

COVID-19 killed those self-service belly-busters last year, but now some fully self-service operations can return, according to a New Jersey Administrative Order released Wednesday night.

While the order applies to places like grocery and convenience stores, it does not apply to restaurants, Michael Zhadanovsky, a press aide in Gov. Phil Murphy's office, told 70and73.com Thursday morning.

The order "allows retail establishments like grocery stores to operate self-service buffets without an attendant," Zhadanovsky explained.

For restaurants, an April 1 update from the state Health Department advised that establishments offering dining "may operate buffet stations utilized directly by patrons if food is kept behind plexiglass or a similar barrier and an attendant serves customers."

Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, state director of emergency management, explained in his Wednesday order: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that contact with contaminated surfaces and handling and consuming food are not the primary methods by which COVID-19 is spread, so that self-service food and drink can be permitted at retail businesses with certain restrictions in place."

Callahan's order also states: "Retail businesses, such as grocery stores, may permit customers to utilize self-service food, such as buffets and salad bars. Such retail businesses shall limit self-service food and drink stations to those that can be routinely cleaned and disinfected."

In the pandemic, some buffets shut down. Others adapted.

Buffets are a way of life at Atlantic City casinos. The Chairman's Club at Golden Nugget Casino, the dining room for high-rollers, in the past provided a buffet line to accompany its open bar. During the ban, servers take orders from the buffet list, pick up the food and deliver it to the diners.