Social distancing guidelines make it hard for restaurants to increase capacity

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Now that most counties are in the Turquoise Level of reopening restaurants can now operate at 75% capacity. However, because of social distancing guidelines, restaurant owners say they are still very limited on seating. That means long lines are expected for Mothers Day weekend.

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The General Manager of Plaza Cafe Southside says the capacity increase doesn’t make a big difference because they still have to keep tables six feet apart. “We are at 75%,” said Belinda Marshall. “But 75% to us is only 2% because we have the six-foot distancing,” said Marshall.

At 75% capacity Marshall says they should be able to fit almost 200 people in the Plaza Cafe Southside. She says if she follows the social distancing guidelines, she’s required to keep tables six feet apart and can only fit about 95 guests. On top of that, parties of more than six people must be divided into two tables.

Recently the state changed the social distancing guidelines for outdoor entertainment venues like Isotopes Park. At the stadium, they only have to keep three feet of distance in between fans, because they’re outside. Marshall says she thinks it’s time the state makes the same decision for restaurants.

In a statement Carolyn White, the CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association said the state capacity limit at 75% is useless with the six-foot distancing. She says on top of these limitations restaurants continue to have a really tough time hiring, making pandemic recovery even more difficult.

KRQE News 13 reached out to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office to ask if there were any plans to adjust the social distancing guidelines for restaurants. They say right now social distancing and wearing masks remains important and the state will graduate from these rules once 60% of eligible New Mexicans are fully vaccinated.

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