Businesses, churches react to amended public health order

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Businesses statewide are moving a little closer to normal after the governor amended the public health order Wednesday. Restaurants and breweries said they hope indoor dining will be more successful this time as they think people have a better understanding of the virus and social distancing.

Giovanni Martinez can’t wait to get people back inside Copper Lounge. “Honestly, we are just excited to get back to work and do what we love to do,” Martinez said.

The cocktail bar and restaurant have been struggling amid the pandemic, making zero sales for more than four months and laying off all 19 workers. “It was rough,” Martinez said.

They opened briefly when the governor allowed indoor dining to reopen in June. When she closed it again in July, only allowing outdoor seating, Copper Lounge suffered since they have no patio. “For us to do outdoor seating, it takes months to plan and develop,” Martinez said. “It isn’t something we could do overnight.”

Now, under the amended public health order, food and drink establishments may resume indoor dining Saturday at 25% occupancy. “We are going from about 100 people in the room down to 25 at a time at the most,” Martinez said. “We will kindly ask people to keep their stay at a two-hour limit.”

Jay Knigge at Boxing Bear Brewing said their three locations have been serving people outside, but they are excited to expand their dining options. “I think a lot of people probably who have come out and gotten rained on or sat in 100-degree heat are probably less inclined to come out at this point,” Knigge said. “Now with 25 percent inside, they will gradually start coming back.”

The amended order also allows houses of worship to expand their occupancy from 25% to 40. “We are really happy to be able to expand that capacity,” Eric Williams of Sagebrush Church said. “We even saw that one of our campuses, in particular, was starting to get close to that 25 percent capacity limit over the last week, but now that the health order has expanded, it is going to allow us to serve people better and more efficiently.

Martinez said while the minimum occupancy isn’t exactly going to pay the bills, he said it is a step in the right direction for business. “We are not expecting a massive turnout or to make a million bucks,” Martinez said. “We just like to do what we are doing and hope to stay afloat doing it,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the governor’s announcement was pretty short notice, so they don’t plan to reopen until next Thursday. Meanwhile, Boxing Bear plans to open indoor seating on Saturday. The governor is expected to announce additional changes to the health order Thursday afternoon.

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