City shuts down popular Old Town restaurant for health order violations

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Old Town restaurant has been shut down until further notice after the city said it is blatantly ignoring the public health order. The city described this as an unprecedented situation and the restaurant said it just wants to be left alone.

The city said Backstreet Grill is closed until further notice after several public health order violations allowing indoor dining. “Very few instances where anyone just flagrantly disregards,” Mark DiMenna with the city’s environmental health department said. “This is an exceptional situation.”

DiMenna said the city suspended the grill’s food permit Wednesday after the restaurant told a city inspector it would not comply with the public health order. DiMenna said the restaurant refused to post signs requiring masks and an inspector spotted maskless employees. This came after a warning during a visit just a few days prior that stemmed from a couple of complaints.

“In this situation, because it got confrontational, it was a little more uncomfortable than usual for the inspector,” DiMenna said. “We understand that it’s someone’s livelihood, and they will feel strongly about it.”

KRQE News 13 called Christopher Cordova, who described himself as a partner at the restaurant. He refused to be recorded for an interview but said on the phone that the public health order was “unconstitutional tyranny,” and that the governor was crushing small businesses while letting places like Walmart make tons of money. He added that none of his employees or customers he knows of have tested positive. Cordova said he plans to get out of New Mexico to restart his business somewhere else.

DiMenna said the city is just trying to keep people safe. “We don’t want this to be something that is that damaging to a business, we just want to ensure compliance,” DiMenna said. “That is really what we are after here.”

New Mexico State Police issued the restaurant a cease and desist order on December 12 and again on December 20 for allowing indoor dining. They were also issued four citations for violations of their liquor license. The business has also been referred to the Department of Health for possible civil penalties up to $5,000. The city said Backstreet Grill will be closed until it meets both city and state requirements to do so.

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