Updated: July 10, 2020 06:09 PM
Created: July 10, 2020 05:53 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Restaurants across New Mexico, already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been dealt another devastating blow.
“Restaurants aren't the problem,” said Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. “Restaurants aren't where COVID is being spread. We're just not the problem, and she's punishing us for it.”
Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's new public health order, restaurants will have to stop indoor dining on Monday.
Lujan Grisham said the risk is too high because too many New Mexicans aren't taking simple precautions like wearing masks and social distancing.
“Restaurants didn't do this to New Mexicans. New Mexicans did this to restaurants,” she said when making the announcement during a virtual news conference on Thursday.
Outdoor and patio dining at 50% capacity, along with carry out are still allowed.
“Right now, it's over 100 degrees outside so outdoor dining doesn't really help us much,” said Wight.
Restaurants were closed for more than two months before being allowed to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity on June 1.
“It's going to be harder to come back from this closure then it was the last closure,” said Wight. “Last time we had PPP money, we had ways to get open, we had some savings left. We have no more savings. Our inventory - we've got fresh inventory right now we've got to get through and three days is not enough. So what are we going to do, right? We're all just throwing our hands up saying, 'What can we do?'”
Two months ago Wight told KOB 4 that more than 200 restaurants across New Mexico closed permanently.
She doesn't have the latest number but estimates New Mexico will lose 20% of its restaurants – or 700 restaurants – with the new regulations in place.
“My board is putting together a letter to ask her to sit down with us and really think this out because she never did talk to the industry about this,” said Wight.
Wight says the association is also considering a legal challenge and is planning a protest on Monday.
KOB 4 reached out to the governor's office for a response. Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said in a statement:
It's not accurate to say the group was not consulted before the decision. The governor has been very clear that if New Mexico's COVID-19 cases continued to trend upwards, the state would need to retract some of the reopening measures we had been able to enact, including indoor dining. As the governor and Dr. Scrase noted yesterday, a high percentage of the state's workplace rapid responses have been to restaurants. The governor was also very clear yesterday that this is not meant to "punish" restaurants, but it is an unavoidable consequence of New Mexicans continuing to conduct themselves in a way that continues to spread COVID-19 throughout the state. Everyone is suffering the effects of this deadly virus, and we have to do everything we can to slow the spread of it. Restaurant owners are prominent members of their communities and must, like all of us, do everything they can to save lives.
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