ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque restaurant shut down before, for violating the public health order, and it appears to be breaking the rules again. Backstreet Grill in Old Town was shut down late last year for violating the public health order. Friday evening, they have shut down again after employees were spotted without masks while serving food.
“The hostess did not wear a mask. I asked her if she would, she said no.” “He kind of leaned over towards us, still no mask, to point at the menu. I asked him if he could wear a mask. He flat out said no,” comments on Yelp said.
“Came in and saw a server with a mask around their chin, sneeze while carrying food, wipe their nose, and serve it to someone. No washing of the hands,” said one comment on Yelp. These are just some of the comments left on Yelp lately for Backstreet Grill in Old Town.
KRQE News 13 went to check it out. On the patio, no employees were seen wearing masks. It’s one of the reasons the same restaurant was shut down late last year.
“Very few instances where anyone flagrantly disregarding what the public health order is asking for,” Mark DiMenna with the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department told KRQE News 13 earlier this year, on Jan. 4. “This is sort of an exceptional situation.”
News 13 reached out to Christopher Cordova, one of the restaurant’s managers, for comment. He wrote back, saying, “We live in America where mandates are not laws, we have the right to refuse to wear a mask.” When asked if he would share his side on camera, he replied, “I’m not interested in talking about masks. It’s very boring for me.”
When reached for comment, the city and state’s environmental health departments said they had received complaints about the restaurant and were looking into it. Just a few hours later, News 13 was notified that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and New Mexico State Police shut down the restaurant for violating the health order. Customers in Old Town had mixed reactions to Backstreet Grill’s apparent actions.
“I just feel like if they are taking temperatures and taking precautions, that should be enough,” said Danielle Williams, who was visiting Old Town. “If we noted that a restaurant was not taking all the safety precautions in the kitchen, it would definitely stop us from going to that particular restaurant,” said Margaret Song, who was also visiting Old Town.
The restaurant was closed on Dec. 20, 2020, for violating the health order, but was allowed to reopen on Jan. 13, as long as they adhered to the state guidelines. This comes as Bernalillo County reached the green level of reopening Friday. The state says despite the good news, it’s a reminder that public health orders are a big part of how New Mexico is overcoming COVID-19.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the governor’s office to get their take. A spokesperson said, “The public health order has the full weight of law,” and, “blatant disregard for the health and safety of fellow New Mexicans is both dangerous and deeply disappointing.”
According to the state’s Environment Department, NMSP also issued a cease and desist order to the restaurant on April 24 that was ignored.