Report shows 18% of New Mexico restaurants closed during pandemic

[anvplayer video=”5129264″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Restaurant Association predicted roughly 10% of restaurants would have to close because of the pandemic. But, a new report shows the actual damage is almost twice that prediction.

“Those numbers came up and I was floored,” said Carol Wight, executive director of the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

Wight has been keeping tabs on all the restaurants forced to close during the pandemic and said the reality is worse than expected. 

“In 2019, there were 5,776 restaurants,” said Wight. “And in 2021, there were 4,683. So we lost 1,100 restaurants in that time.”

That’s roughly 18% of all restaurants across the state.

Wight says that’s also 21,000 jobs lost in just a matter of two years.

“I do believe that what we’re seeing here is more of the local mom-and-pop restaurants that have shut down,” Wight said.

She said the 14 months of lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic was the first blow. The association found restaurants and bars on average are facing up to $160,000 in debt because of those closures.

But Wight added rising food costs and the labor shortage are still causing problems.

“They can’t open up to capacity, because they don’t have enough employees, they are dealing with an 18% wholesale food price increase that, you know,  is very difficult to do without taking additional increases in their menu prices,” said Wight. 

Duke City Kitchen closed its doors at the end of July, less than three years after it opened. The owners told KOB 4 that those rising costs turned their dream into a nightmare and they just couldn’t keep going. 

“We really want to be available to folks when they want to go out, and we need folks in our restaurants to help us do that,” she said.  

As for the restaurants that did survive, Wight says they’re now fighting for business from grocery stores and folks choosing to cook at home.

“Please choose a restaurant because we don’t need any more of these restaurants going out of business. We really – they are the cornerstone of every community and it’s really important that we support them,” she said.  

The New Mexico Restaurant Association is asking state lawmakers for help, and they want a state relief program based on the federal restaurant revitalization fund.