Indoor dining reopening: Some owners excited, some can’t take advantage, many frustrated | KOB 4

Indoor dining reopening: Some owners excited, some can’t take advantage, many frustrated

Tommy Lopez
Updated: August 26, 2020 10:28 PM
Created: August 26, 2020 09:30 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Thousands of restaurants across New Mexico are hurting under COVID-19 restrictions, but many got a glimmer of hope Wednesday when the governor announced indoor dining can return at 25% capacity on Saturday. It’s been off limits for the better part of the past seven weeks.

On Wednesday, many owners in Albuquerque told KOB 4 that they’re excited to allow customers to eat inside again, but others say only being able to have a quarter of their space open will hardly allow them to break even, so they’ll keep inside seating closed.

At Monte Carlo Steak House on Central near Tingley, co-owner George Katsaros is planning on opening his inside seating Saturday, but he’s frustrated with how difficult the last few months have been.

“Horrible, hectic, just trying to hold on. For about 30 days we were in the red,” he said.

His location has been a favorite for 50 years on Central Avenue in the southwest part of Albuquerque, and he feels indoor dining should have been open all throughout the pandemic. Like many restaurant owners, he feels like his type of business has been unfairly singled out.

“If you don’t feel safe, don’t come in, because they can go into Home Depot. They can go into Smith’s. They can go into Costco, and they pile them in there with a mask,” Katsaros said.

He says he’ll survive. After all, his family has been making it work for five decades.

Katsaros remembers when indoor dining in New Mexico was closed for more than two months, and then, after reopening for about two weeks, was closed again on July 13. He says, after Saturday, if the governor closes indoor dining again, he may choose to close the restaurant for good and keep running just the adjacent liquor store.

Inside D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro on Rio Grande Boulevard in Albuquerque, tables are already spaced six feet apart in preparation for hosting customers inside Saturday.

Assistant General Manager Javier Rocha says everyone could eat inside safely in their large room, even at 50% capacity.

However, like so many others, he says business has been down.

“It’s been sporadic at best. We can’t really go off of what we’re used to because everything is so different. We’re kind of taking it a day, a week or month at a time,” Rocha said.

He says indoor dining is typically a big part of their business.

“I’m excited because it gives us an opportunity for guests that haven’t been in here to take in the full experience of what we offer,” he said.

Lescombes will have about eight to ten tables open inside.

But many other restaurants tell KOB 4 that they can’t take advantage of the loosening restrictions.

At Fan Tang in Nob Hill, owner Jason Zeng says he can’t turn a profit if he opens his indoor space at less than half capacity.

“For six tables, for me, it’s just not worth it because I would have to bring in an extra serving staff to serve the interior and possibly an extra kitchen guy,” he said.

He says he’s hurting, but is still doing relatively well with takeout, delivery and patio service, and he understands the governor’s decisions. In fact, he wonders if inside dining is truly safe amid these conditions.

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