Restaurant owners continue to be patient for Bernalillo County to move into Green

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County has not budged from the Yellow Level for weeks in the state’s Red-to-Green reopening plan.

For restaurants in the county, that means they have to stick to 33% of indoor capacity, and 75% capacity for outdoor dining.

"Wednesdays are my new Christmas every two weeks. I keep a close eye on in the morning, all day long just to see if Bernalillo has moved at all because we want to get on as soon as possible,” said Libbe Riccardi, co-owner and business manager at Kamikaze Kitchen.

Riccardi said they have a lot of room available, but need the green light from the state to open more seating. She said she understands the restrictions and agrees safety comes first. They have even started offering discounts for people who show their vaccine cards.

"Yeah. As many people as I can get in the door. The takeout helps as well, but we’re really looking forward to dine-in, and I think everybody else is ready for it, too,” she said.

Jarrett Babincsak, vice president of sales and marketing at Santa Fe Brewing, said the Yellow Level restrictions have been making things tough on business.

"When you talk about restricting capacity at all, it makes it hard to be profitable,” he said.

Businesses like Santa Fe Brewing Co. have multiple locations across the state. Some of their tap rooms, like the ones in Bernalillo County, have stricter restrictions than their tap rooms in Santa Fe, which is in Level Turquoise.

"I think for us, the complexity has been around our communication—using our social media channels, using our website to make sure we are clearly articulating to our consumers before they arrive. Once they arrive on site with our hostesses, what can they expect so they feel as safe and as comfortable as possible, our staff feels as safe and comfortable as possible, and everyone is clear on how things are going to work as much as we can be obviously,” Babincsak said.

As the state makes progress in its fight against the virus, Babincsak said they’re optimistic.

"The morale across the organization with our staff is at an all-time high. People are excited to get back to doing what we all signed up to do, which is selling beer, interacting with people, having a good time,” he said. “I don’t think anyone went into working here at our tap room thought we’d be managing a business during a pandemic, so I think everyone is generally excited to living life and welcoming more customers back in and handing beers across the bar to just enjoying each other’s company again without the overhead piece of COVID."

The state is expected to release the next update of its Red-to-Green map Wednesday, April 21.