ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As attitudes about getting back out and about start to loosen up, the number of complaints the city is getting from concerned citizens about restaurants breaking the rules is going way down. After the pandemic started, the city’s Environmental Health Department started doing COVID-19 Inspections. But as the state makes progress in the pandemic, they’re doing a lot less of them.
“These COVID inspections are complaint-based but we’re really just seeing a decrease in the number of complaints coming through as restrictions have been easing up. So, we’ve been doing these COVID inspections as needed,” Maia Rodriguez, Public Information Officer with the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department said.
Last week, the city only had to do seven COVID inspections. That’s compared to 40 the last week of November. The latest inspections include an open, self-serve soda fountain at the Chipotle on San Pedro and tables too close together at El Patron on Wyoming. Under state guidelines, tables at restaurants must be spaced six feet apart.
Fewer complaints are no surprise to one of the owners of The Range Cafe. He said as restrictions open up, he is seeing customers more relaxed.
“We’re definitely seeing people are more comfortable coming into restaurants and I think they’re a little bit more at ease feeling things have gotten better. I think they trust us with taking care of them so that we’re maintaining a healthy atmosphere at our restaurants,” Matt DiGregory said.
Throughout the pandemic, Rodriguez said the most common complaints were tables being too close together at restaurants and employees not wearing masks, or not wearing them properly. Under the latest guidelines, restaurant employees only need to wear masks if they are not vaccinated or if the employer requires it.
“All individuals who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated are still required, per the public health order and CDC guidance, to wear a mask in public settings. Businesses have the right to establish additional standards of service for employees or customers should they so choose, and the state fully supports municipalities, businesses, and workplaces that continue to require any individuals to wear masks regardless of vaccination status,” a spokesperson with the governor’s office said in an email.
DiGregory said he still does see confusion among customers in restaurants. “They think we’re fully open and everything’s back to normal. we are still under some restrictions,” he said. Some of those restrictions include capacity limits, distance requirements, and even a ban on pets, excluding service animals, on patios. Restaurants are also required to screen employees coming into work.