DEMING, N.M. (KRQE) – A restaurant owner in southern New Mexico is being forced to temporarily close the doors to one of their establishments and adjust the hours at another because – like a lot of restaurants across New Mexico – they’re having a difficult time hiring workers. Now, who they’re blaming is turning heads and drawing criticism.

“Blame China,” that’s what a big sign in front of Forghedaboutit Southwest Italian, in Deming says. “We are not racist, we are not bigots,” said Kimberly Yacone, the owner of the Italian eatery. “This thing came from China, it’s a known fact,” said Yacone.

Yacone says she and her husband Robert, blame the Chinese government for their inability to keep their Deming restaurant open. “When we say blame China, yeah! That’s where it came from,” said Yacone. “We’re not blaming Chinese American people,” she told KRQE News 13.

Up until the pandemic, the Yacone’s restaurant had been open in Deming for eight years. Now, like so many restaurants in New Mexico, they’re having a hard time finding staff to run the place. “When people are making more on unemployment than they are going back to work, it’s hard to find help,” said Yacone.

KRQE News 13 asked her if the sign on the property instigates violence against the Asian community. “I don’t think it does,” Yacone told News 13. “That’s towards the Chinese government,” she said.

However, people on social media don’t agree with her. In the past few days, some bad reviews have come up on their Facebook page from people who say they refuse to support their business and call them bigots. Yacone says she’s received calls too, defending their stance. “It’s just ridiculous to say that we’re racist,” she said.

We asked her if they have any intent on taking the sign down, but Yacone says the sign will remain up. “It is what it is,” she said.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the ACLU of New Mexico about the sign. In a statement they said:

“This sign simply replays the Trump administration’s tactic of dodging blame for its failures by playing to racial antagonism toward Asian Americans. We’ve seen how signs like this inspire hate and violence against the Asian community. Instead of contributing to these kinds of divisions in our country, we should be pulling together to defeat the virus.”

Peter Simonson, Executive Director of ACLU New Mexico