At Cafe Ole, a coffee house a block from the New Jersey capitol where business slowed to a trickle during a weeklong government shutdown, a new sign adorned the shop's door Monday.
"All of you are essential to us," read the sign, referring to the 45,000 state workers who flooded back into the city on the first work day after New Jersey approved a new budget, ending a weeklong government shutdown that furloughed workers, halted most state services and closed casinos for three days.
The shutdown, spurred by a budget impasse between Gov. Corzine and his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature, ended at dawn Saturday with the passage of a compromise $30.8 billion spending plan that raised the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.
Shutting down government cost the state millions in lost casino tax and lottery revenue and took a toll on privately owned businesses. At Cafe Ole, business was off by 97 percent - instead of 550 customers a day, it had 15, owner Kit Rivenburg said.
The shutdown began after the state failed to have a balanced budget in place by July 1, as required by the state constitution. State workers, sidelined because the state technically had run out of money to pay them, are expected to be compensated for their time off the job.
State Police and others considered essential to the health, safety and welfare of state residents remained on the job.
Some 36,000 casino dealers, tail servers and slot machine attendants were forced out of work for three days when gambling inspectors stopped making their rounds. The state lost $1.3 million in tax revenue each day the casinos were closed. The gambling halls, lottery and New Jersey's horse racing tracks went back into business Saturday with the passage of the budget.
The return to normalcy continued Sunday, when state parks and beaches reopened to large crowds. State courts, Motor Vehicle Commission offices and auto inspection stations all resumed operations Monday morning, though a glitch knocked MVC computers off-line for 20 minutes, spokesman David Weinstein said.
Deborah Barnes, a Newark resident, returned to her job at a state Consumer Affairs office after spending much of last week protesting the shutdown in the Statehouse.
"Yes, I'm here," Barnes said Monday morning. She characterized her unexpected week off as "kind of awkward."
In Newark, Anwar Siddiqui, manager of a sundries store at Newark's Penn Station, said lottery sales were up slightly Monday, the first workday since sales resumed.
He said legions of frustrated lottery players bombarded him with questions last week.
"They would ask 100 times a day when can they play again," he said.
In Cherry Hill, dozens of people were waiting to renew driver's licenses and car registrations at one Motor Vehicle Commission office.
Jasper Frazier had been scheduled to take his road test for his driver's license last week when the offices were closed. The delay meant the Camden man had to spend a few extra days riding two buses each to his job at a retail store.
Dan Zeccola had it a little easier: He had his license, but last week's closures forced the Haddon Township man to wait to renew some important, expired paperwork.
"It made me drive with a registration that wasn't valid," Zeccola, 43, said of the shutdown.