ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been more than a year since bars in the metro have been allowed to open. But now that Bernalillo County is in the Turquoise Level of the state’s reopening framework, bars, and clubs can now open outdoors and indoors.

The Launchpad is known for its live concerts but for the last 14 months, it sat empty. “March 16th (2020) was my last night I worked that last night,” said Mike Bethke, the manager of Launchpad. “I haven’t been back, just trying to do projects, keep busy, everyone’s missing some live music and we gotta bring it back.”     

Bethke said it’s been a very frustrating year for the bar industry in New Mexico with bars and clubs not allowed to reopen until their respective county reached the Green tier.

However, even with Bernalillo County turning Green last week, it only allowed bars to operate at 25% capacity for outdoor space and no services inside. So the Launchpad didn’t think it was worth reopening until the Turquoise Level, where bars can open at 33% indoors and 75% outdoors.

Bethke is relieved we’re now at that level but says the damage has already been done. Over the past year, they had to lay off their nearly 20 employees and were only able to stay afloat and pay rent with help from local and federal grants and loans.

Meanwhile, Bourbon and Boots, located less than a mile away on Central, also laid off all of their employees and relied on grants and loans. However, they reopened last Friday after turning their country bar into a certified restaurant. Just in case the county goes backward. 

“So we went ahead and built a kitchen out in the back and become a whole restaurant, so we hired back our GM, we hired on a chef and then, us three combined, started hiring on more staff to become a full restaurant and bar,” said Rich Baca, the co-owner of Bourbon & Boots.   

Bourbon and Boots used to allow dancing, but Baca said that probably won’t come back for a couple of months. The Launchpad hopes to reopen its bar this Friday. They’re also working to bring back live concerts, but aren’t sure when that will be.