One Year Later: The pandemic’s toll on restaurants and retail

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —More than 200 restaurants have closed during the pandemic, according to the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

Well it was only going to be a 14-day lockdown to chill the virus,” said Carol Wight, the group’s executive director.

Looking back at the past year, Wight said the financial assistance that came was too late to help some companies stay afloat.

“Nobody knew anything, so you got to give everybody a little bit of grace for that but certainly helping business that were being shut down with grants and other things could have come earlier in the state’s case.”

Meanwhile, Wight called the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program an “8-week fix for a 9-month problem.”

Back in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued public health orders that limited dining options. She said the restrictions were necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, New Mexico was the most locked down state in the nation and so it certainly feels like it’s going to be difficult to climbing out of this,” Wight said.

Recently, some of those restrictions have been lifted in counties that meet certain criteria.

Meanwhile, experts told KOB 4 it’s unclear how many businesses were affected by the shutdown and how many closed their door permanently.

“I think it’ll probably take years to figure out how much we’ve lost,” said Rachel Sams, editor-in-chief of Albuquerque Business First.

“The early data has shown that a lot of business that might have early on expected they would need to close found ways to get through,” she said. “Maybe it was the Paycheck Protection Program or some of the other assistance available that helped keep them moving forward long enough to figure out how to keep the doors open a little bit longer," she added.

Matt Simonds tried using the federal assistance to keep his brewery open but money ran out.

“You know, the promises of help from the different government levels were comical,” said Simonds.

“The PPP loan was an 8-week stop gap,” he said.

Simonds opened Broken Trail Brewery in 2015 and closed the business in November because of the pandemic.

“I think for a business owner, one of the most difficult things was this kind of internal struggle that we all want to be safe, we all want to keep people healthy but I still have bills to pay, I still have insurance, I have rent, I have employees,” he said.

Broken Trail even stepped up and manufactures sanitizer to help first responders. Unfortunately, Simonds had to close the brewery.

“By the time we closed down our location at Menaul and Louisiana, I had three employees left,” he said.

“And we cried together because this was my family, they still are my family,” Simonds added.

While state lawmakers have passed multiple forms of assistance to help companies deal with the pandemic, Simonds told KOB 4 he would not want to own a business in New Mexico because of how the state handled the pandemic.

Businesses that are still open are optimistic, according to Sams.

“Business leaders are encouraged to see how many people are getting the vaccine and that appears to helping bring down the number of COVID cases which is leading to more businesses being able to reopen in certain counties,” she said.

Wight also thinks some business will be able to bounce back.

“Federal government is coming out with more money,” she said.

“State government is helping out and I do think all of those things are going to help get the industry back but biggest thing is going to be reopening,” Wight added.

Restaurants are currently allowed to offer indoor dining if they’re in yellow, green or turquoise category on the state’s red to green framework. For a look at that map, visit state’s coronavirus dashboard by clicking here.