ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Monday is the first day that restaurants across New Mexico can allow customers to dine in. For many people, that means getting their jobs back. The service industry has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. After months of being laid off, some people are finally getting the call that their old job is waiting for them.

Jonah Lopez is back at work. “My job is a server, and I came back and started working as soon as I heard the news,” Lopez said. After being laid off two-and-a-half months ago, Monday was his first day back serving at Monroe’s on Fourth Street. “I have loved it,” Lopez said. “I have missed it so much. I missed the people.”

The University of New Mexico senior has worked here for three years to help put him through school. After he was laid off, he has been focusing on his studies and collecting unemployment to help pay bills.

He jumped at the opportunity to get his job back. “I think it’s definitely put a different thought in my mind about how grateful I am to have this job,” Lopez said. “I really like the fact that I can get up every day and earn my wage and not have to just collect it.”

Monroe’s said between their two locations, they had to lay off more than 50 people and used the Payroll Protection Program to pay the remaining 40 employees. Monday, they brought back six employees and plan to bring back more as business returns.

“I cannot really even express how much it means,” Monroe’s co-owner Kathy Diaz said. “So many of these kids, we have seen them grow up. Some of them are the children of previous employees, and they are really like family so it is really wonderful.”

Other businesses around town are rehiring employees too like Sadie’s who welcomed 30 workers back. “They don’t want to stay home,” manager Roger Erker said. “They want to come back to work, and they want to earn money.”

Lopez said he is happy to be back at Monroe’s with his work family. “They have given me everything from a job to a reason to get up in the morning and just put my stamp on the world,” Lopez said.

Lopez is a peer mathematics major at UNM and plans to join the Navy once he graduates. He said the most rewarding thing about being back at work is seeing his regular customers again. Restaurants welcoming customers to dine back inside are following strict social distancing measures, keeping tables six feet apart and operating at half occupancy. Monroe’s has also adopted touchless menus.

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