The New Mexico Environment Department has suspended food-service permits at two restaurants that have refused to obey the governor’s ban on indoor dining, but those restaurants say they will continue to operate “as long as we have guests that want to eat here.”
State officials on Thursday suspended Outlaw Grill’s permits in Hobbs and Eunice.
“These restaurants are operating in violation of state food safety laws and must cease all operations immediately,” the Environment Department said in a statement. “Failing to do so may result in additional enforcement measures. If the restaurants correct the violations, they may request that NMED reinstate their food service permit.”
But Outlaw Grill said it would not comply. “We have received our citation, and we will refuse to close our doors,” it said in a Facebook post. “We will stay open and continue working and serving the public as long as we have guests that want to eat here and staff that want to serve them.”
The battle over indoor restaurant service is being waged in the courtroom. The state Supreme Court is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to overturn the state’s restrictions on dine-in service.
In July, a state district judge in Carlsbad suspended Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s ban on indoor dining, but hours later, the high court reinstated the order until it could hear the case.
The state banned indoor dining in mid-March as it tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The governor partially lifted the ban in early June by allowing restaurants to resume indoor seating at 50 percent of capacity. But she reinstated the ban in July when the state’s cases began to spike.
The New Mexico Restaurant Association has said some 200 eateries have gone out of business since the start of the pandemic. “You can have 100 people at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Albertsons, you can have 800 people in a peaceful riot, but I can’t have 40 people in my restaurants?” Outlaw Grill said in its Facebook post. “Open up a patio? Who wants to eat in 100 degree weather? I know I don’t.”
Outlaw Grill isn’t the only restaurant to refuse to follow the state’s orders. The Environment Department said it is “pursuing further enforcement” against nine other establishments that continue to serve customers after their food service permits were suspended last month.
Those restaurants include:
u Trinity Hotel and Restaurant in Carlsbad
u Casey’s in Hobbs
u TJ’s Diner in Farmington
u Country Family Restaurant in Farmington
u Los Hermanitos in Farmington (two locations)
u Pizza Inn in Carlsbad (two locations)
u Pizza Inn in Hobbs