ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Driving around Albuquerque you can see just how many businesses built temporary outdoor space to stay afloat during the pandemic. But as we make our way out of the pandemic, how long will we be seeing sidewalk seating and patios in parking lots?
A year ago, the city of Albuquerque held a press conference easing some rules so that restaurants and retail businesses could quickly build temporary outdoor spaces. “The city was working to try and come up with ways, some flexibility, to allow those businesses to continue in some way, shape, or form, that was similar to how they had operated or provided services prior to the pandemic,” Brennon Williams, Director of Albuquerque’s Planning Department, said.
Soon after, diners started being seated on the sidewalks along Central, and tented outdoor patios took over parking lots. One restaurant in Northeast Albuquerque said building a temporary outdoor patio was a saving grace.
“We were not allowed to do any indoor dining. So it was our opportunity to keep our employees staffed and to be able to keep servers serving outside and not just the car hop option and the curbside option that we also had. We could actually provide the service of dining,” Vanessa Quezada, Managing Partner at Bubba’s 33, said.
According to The Fire Marshal’s Office, 219 restaurants and retail businesses took advantage of the temporary outdoor allowances. But the relaxed rules allowing for the temporary outdoor spaces won’t last forever. “The current allowances go away or expire when the current public health orders go away or expire,” Williams said. That could be as soon as June.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state would fully open by the end of June if it reached a 60% vaccination rate. As of May 27, the state’s website said 55.1% of the state has been fully vaccinated.
When the temporary allowances go away, Quezada said they will also do away with the tented parking lot patio, saying it’s a way to return to normalcy. “As the rest of the country continues to open up, people want to see life get back as close to normal as it was before,” she said.
The restaurant is in the process of building a permanent patio. Any restaurant or retail business still interested in taking advantage of the temporary outdoor allowance or wanting to make their temporary outdoor set up permanent, can do so by reaching out to the planning department.