Eat, drink & be weepy? NJ funeral homes push for repeal of food/drink ban
New Jersey remains one of just a handful of states that forbid food and beverage inside funeral homes.
It's a decades-old law based on public health concerns, but the state of New York's recent repeal of a similar ban has reignited a push in New Jersey to clear the way for mortuaries to bring in refreshments, sandwiches and snacks for those attending services.
Mourners are also prohibited from passing through with a cup of coffee or granola bar of their own under current New Jersey law.
Some funeral directors go as far as posting the law on signs inside their buildings to ensure that visitors know the restriction is not the funeral home's policy, but rather a requirement of state law, according to Adam Guziejewski, deputy executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association.
Association members in favor of a food ban repeal, Guziejewski said, are simply hoping to accommodate the requests they receive from families on a regular basis. While some may view eating and drinking as distasteful inside a funeral home, others think it'd be a welcome addition to a "marathon viewing."
"I think we're at the point where we've seen this work successfully in other states where there hasn't really been a public health crisis as a result of allowing food or beverage service on mortuary premises," Guziejewski said.
In mid January, food and beverage service launched at New York funeral homes interested in adding the service. Legislation lifting the ban had been signed six months prior by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"You can offer them the water cooler; that's about it at this point," said Michael Sutton, manager of the Quinn-Hopping Funeral Home in Toms River.
You may also see a bowl of breath mints as you enter select funeral homes in the state.
Sutton said the funeral home is not only interested in possibly offering service packages that include food and refreshments. It'd also be nice, he said, to offer a drink or snack to grieving families arriving to make arrangements for a loved one.
"Sometimes they do drive right from the hospital over to the funeral home and they probably haven't eaten anything," he said.
A repeal of the food/refreshment ban is included in legislation introduced last year by Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex, but the bill has not seen any movement.
"If this bill is enacted into law and the prohibition is lifted, food or refreshments could be served to or catered for the friends and family of the deceased on the premises of a mortuary or funeral home at the discretion of the funeral director," the bill states.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.