SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that the state’s emergency public health order will soon allow limited outdoor dine-in services for most of the state. The amended order is set to begin Wednesday, May 27 and restaurants can start serving customers at outdoor tables at up to 50% of their outdoor area occupancy rate. The amended public health order does not apply to the northwestern public health region that includes Cibola, San Juan and McKinley counties. That area remains under the May 5, 2020, public health order but is on track to move ahead into broader reopenings beginning June 1.

Dine-in services inside restaurants and bars remain temporarily prohibited. The state says New Mexico is on target for a June 1 reopening of those services under limited capacity. New Mexico health officials are continuing to monitor the rate of transmission in the state’s southwestern public health region. Under the amended public health order, restaurants may offer dine-in service in outdoor seating areas at up to 50% of their outdoor area fire code occupancy.

The following criteria apply:

  • No dine-in service may be provided in indoor seating areas.
  • Outdoor dine-in service may only be provided to patrons who are seated.  
  • Tables must be placed with at least six feet of distance between one another. 
  • No more than six patrons may be seated at any single table. 
  • No bar or counter seating is permitted.

Bars, defined as food and beverage service establishments that derived more than 50 percent of their revenue in the prior calendar year from the sale of alcoholic beverages,  are not included in the amended order and may not operate outdoor or patio services at this time. Bars may continue to operate for take-out and delivery if permitted under their applicable licenses.

“Our priority throughout this public health crisis has been the safety and health and well-being of New Mexicans, and this modification of the emergency public health order aligns with that mandate while providing an opportunity for restaurants to begin preparing for a wider reopening next week,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham in a press release. “We continue to see sustained, consistent progress in our fight against this virus, which is a credit to the New Mexicans who have amended their behavior to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. I greatly look forward to being able to continue to ease the restrictions imposed on us by this heinous virus – provided that we continue on the right track and New Mexicans take every necessary precaution, whether in an individual capacity or as a business owner or employee.”

“The New Mexico Restaurant Association is happy with the Governor’s decision to allow a soft opening, of outdoor dining, for restaurants on May 27,” said Carol Wight, the association’s chief executive in a press release. “We believe this will provide restaurants the opportunity to ease back into the swing of things while taking the time to properly train staff and implement COVID-19 safe procedures effectively, before fully opening to the public on June 1.”

“At this time we ask our industry partners in Doña Ana County to seriously consider refraining from participation in this soft opening,” Wight added. “The rate of transmission is considerably higher in this area and in order for everyone to be able to safely reopen soon, the NMRA would like restaurants in this area to forgo the May 27 date and work hard to slow the spread for the June 1 reopening of our industry.”

The state says the emergency public health order mandates continued compliance with COVID-safe practices for restaurants, which have been updated with an adjustment related to contact tracing. Requirement is as follows:

“To support contract tracing, offer all customers who visit the establishment with the opportunity to record their name and phone number or email address, along with the date and time of their visit, and retain such records for no less than four weeks from the date of collection.”