ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque officials held a news conference on Wednesday, May 27 to discuss the local coronavirus response as well as the opening of restaurants. Mayor Keller announced on Wednesday that the city’s Planning Department will allow restaurants to have “sidewalk seating” in an attempt to assist local restaurants in reopening.

This will allow restaurants to have additional space for outside dining. The announcement comes a day after the state announced restaurants can start serving customers at outdoor tables at up to 50% of their outdoor area occupancy rate.

“We also want to support restaurants by offering other ways to expand, this could mean using different facilities so we are entertaining ideas on how to do things like close parts of streets or use Civic Plaza or the Railyards if folks are interested,” said Mayor Keller. Restaurants will still be expected to follow social distancing protocols required by the state.

Keller is requesting neighborhood and merchant associations and main street groups to reach out to the city with any ideas to help keep residents safe while also allowing outdoor dining. Those interested are asked to reach out to the Planning Department or Economic Development Department.

The City of Albuquerque Planning Dept. Director Brennon Williams explained that they have suspended certain provisions of the city’s ordinance that relates to providing a barrier for outdoor seating to separate the seating from the use of the sidewalk. Williams state that the department will ensure that accessibility is maintained and the department will work with members of the public to define specifics regarding seating and what options are available.

Those interested are asked to visit the Planning Department’s webpage to view outdoor seating applications and to contact the department with any questions. The suspension of these ordinances does not apply to alcohol sales.

“The barrier requirement that we are suspending does not pertain to businesses that are serving beer, wine, or liquor,” said Williams. “That stuff is regulated at the state level and state statute requires that a barrier be provided.”

Albuquerque City Councilor Cynthia Borrego stated that she and Council Vice President Diane Gibson will hold a press conference on Thursday to discuss ways to assist small businesses, specifically restaurants. They will be looking at an ordinance to create temporary outdoor restaurant permits in parking lots.

Another resolution would allow retail and restaurants to increase their capacity. Both bills will be introduced at the next city council meeting.