Restaurants rush to get NM Safe Certified ahead of deadline

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s announcement on Tuesday, the clock is ticking for restaurants to get ‘certified’ by October 30 if they want to continue indoor dining. The NM Safe Certified Program, which trains and certifies businesses in COVID-safe practices, is now handling an influx of applications under deadline.

On Tuesday, the governor announced restaurants would have to get NM Safe Certified by October 30 if they want to continue indoor dining at 25% capacity. Before the announcement, 145 restaurants out of about 3,500 restaurants statewide were NM Safe Certified. But, that is quickly changing.

“Since yesterday, I would say, you know, probably 10-fold the number of applications,” Jason Espinoza, Executive Director of New Mexico Society of Association Executives, which administers the certification program, said.

According to Espinoza, from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, 700 restaurants had applied and been approved to start the training program. He said an additional 700 restaurants were still waiting for their applications to get approved.

He said they are trying to approve applications within 24 hours and are working with the New Mexico Tourism Department and other organizations to make it happen.

“I’ve gotten calls from business organizations from Lea County, here in Albuquerque, to Deming, and across the state saying Jason, how can we support you? They’re donating staff time to help us get through all the applications, to make sure that everyone can be shepherded through the process in a timely manner,” Espinoza said.

He said he’s confident all who apply will get certified by the state’s deadline. The program is a series of self-guided training videos where businesses learn the basics of COVID-safe practices like how to properly wear a mask, social distance, and wash hands. Businesses then get training modules based on their specific industry which is followed by quizzes. Espinoza said businesses can get certified within a couple of hours.

Under the state’s amended public health order, restaurants and drink establishments who do not get NM Safe Certified by October 30 will not be allowed to have indoor dining until further notice.

Espinoza is urging any applicants who have not gotten an application approved to check their spam folder and reach out to the program. He said since the governor’s announcement, they are also seeing a spike in businesses outside the food industry applying to get certified.

“We provide them branding materials that customers will know across the state, across every industry, that when they see that business directory or they see that window cling on their business and their storefront, they can feel comfortable knowing that that management staff has been trained in what they appropriate COVID-safe practices are,” Espinoza said.

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