NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Restaurant Association organized a peaceful protest Monday where hundreds of restaurants throughout the state were urging the governor to open indoor dining back up. Organizers said about 1,000 of the 3,500 restaurants across the state participated in the peaceful protest.

Restaurants said the new orders will leave thousands of people in the state without jobs and will potentially lead to hundreds of restaurants closing permanently. Organizers said they understand how serious the pandemic is, but felt compelled to file a lawsuit against the state because they believe the governor is targeting them. 

“We’re taking it seriously, we’re cleaning, we’re sanitizing, social distancing, following CSPs, we’re wearing masks,” said Carol Wight, the CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. “And the safety of our employees and customers has been and will continue to be a top priority for restaurants.”   

Wight said they’re not encouraging their members to defy the governor’s order but said at least 12 restaurants kept their dining rooms open Monday. Restaurants that defy the public health order could face a fine of $5,000 a day. The governor’s office sent KRQE an email statement in response to the peaceful protests Monday and restaurants wanting to reopen indoor dining: 

The governor has been very clear that if New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases continued to trend upwards, the state would need to retract some of the reopening measures we had been able to enact, including indoor dining. As the governor and Dr. Scrase noted during their press conference last week, a high percentage of the state’s workplace rapid responses have been to restaurants. By economic sector, food industries make up the largest portion of COVID-19 workplace rapid responses and have already increased from previous weeks to last week.​ The governor was also very clear that this is not meant to “punish” restaurants, but it is an unavoidable consequence of New Mexicans continuing to conduct themselves in a way that continues to spread COVID-19 throughout the state. It is incumbent upon all New Mexicans to conduct themselves in a way that does not contribute to the further spread of COVID-19, and when they do not, the state has no other choice for the protection of the health and safety of New Mexicans than to restrict situations in which the virus can most easily spread – like in high-contact indoor settings, i.e. restaurants. Everyone is suffering the effects of this deadly virus, and we have to do everything we can to slow the spread of it. Restaurant owners are prominent members of their communities and must, like all of us, do everything they can to save lives.​​​​

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