Some restaurants open patio dining at half capacity, but not all

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Wednesday marks the first day restaurants with outdoor seating can welcome customers. The governor announced the amended public health order allowing patio dining at half capacity on Tuesday. A lot of people showed up to patios on Wednesday, exciting to eat at a restaurant again and get back some sense of ‘normalcy.’

“Couldn’t get out here fast enough,” Lina Wood, a customer at Sadie’s, said. “It’s just nice to do something that we’ve always done and haven’t been able to do.”

“It’s just nice to be out of the house,” Samantha Espinda, another Sadie’s customer said.

A lot of restaurants opened patio dining on Wednesday following the governor’s orders of half capacity, no more than six people at a table, and having the tables spaced apart. There are also state guidelines for restaurants that include disinfecting reusable items like condiments and menus in between each guest.

“To just be comfortable and sit down and not have to be so excluded and kind of ya know, secluded,” Lisa Postlethwait, a customer at Sadie’s said.

While some restaurants opened outdoor dining, not all did. The Shop Breakfast and Lunch is sticking to ‘to-go’ orders since it has a smaller patio. The owner, Israel Rivera, said at 50% capacity, the patio could only hold one table. He said the move just isn’t worth it for his business. “We’re going to have to bring in a dishwasher, we’re going to have to bring in a busser, for a four-person table, one table. It just doesn’t make any sense to us,” he said. “And that just doesn’t make any sense to us to have four people at one table all day and bring in more employees. They would not cover the cost of the employees.”

He added that his customers have been understanding of this decision and supportive of the ‘to-go’ option. Some businesses said the governor’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon about the patio dining opening on Wednesday was a surprise and didn’t give them much time to prepare. Many are taking to social media to let customers know they are getting ready and will try and open patio seating closer to the weekend.

The City of Albuquerque is also taking action to help restaurants with little to no outdoor seating. On Wednesday, it announced it will be accepting applications for businesses to expand outdoor seating options to sidewalks and parking lots. It’s also waiving the $180 fire marshal fee that usually comes with these outdoor changes for three months. Businesses can apply through the city’s Planning Department.

City councilor Brook Bassan also proposed legislation that would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol in parking lots and other fenced, in areas. It will be discussed and voted on on June 1. It will need approval from the state.

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