Santa Fe restaurateurs were largely ho-hum Thursday about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision this week to allow indoor dining to resume at 25 percent occupancy.

Saturday will be the first time since July 13 that restaurants can open dining rooms. New Mexico was one of only three states, along with California and New Jersey, to ban indoor dining for the past month or two as cases of the novel coronavirus surged nationwide.

Many diners have been skittish about eating indoors during the pandemic. But Angela Mason, a managing partner at Santa Fe Bite, said her customers favor indoor seating.

“Most of our customers are unhappy about being outside,” Mason said. “They prefer the cool comfort of indoors.”

Santa Fe Bite can seat 30 people outdoors and 25 indoors.

“We’ve been much better for lunch and brunch on the patio — better than dinner because of the rain and wind coming in,” Mason said. “It will be like dining out when you’re dining in.”

The Pantry Restaurant put up a tent over some parking spaces to seat 20 people.

The 25 percent rule will allow another 20 people to dine indoors, manager Ruben Mendez said.

“It’s not a big difference,” he said. “It’s very little, but we’ll take it.”

Mendez said the shifting public health regulations for restaurants have been challenging.

“It’s just staying alive,” he said. “Are we making any profit? Not really.”

New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight said at least the new rule gives diners a choice.

“I certainly think down south they are rejoicing more than in the north,” Wight said. “Eating outdoors in 100 degrees is not fun. We’re hoping this is the first step to get back up to 100 percent.”

Restoring some indoor dining comes as Cafe Pasqual’s was set to reopen Friday after shutting down in mid-March. But owner Katharine Kagel will open the downtown eatery with takeout service only.

“We’re excited about it,” she said.

“If we reopen the dining room, that’s 12½ people,” she said. “We look forward to being a full restaurant when all this is history. Meanwhile, we want people to enjoy taking our food home.”

Cafe Fina on Old Las Vegas Highway has a dining room and patio, but owner Murphy O’Brien hasn’t bothered to open the indoor area since “coronavirus” became a buzzword. He offered patio dining for a few weeks, until Lujan Grisham banned indoor dining for the second time in July. For now, he’s sticking with takeout service.

“I feel the potential for spread is still there,” O’Brien said of the coronavirus. “I’d rather err on the side of caution.”

A drive-thru window has offered sustainable business for Cafe Fina, generating 60 percent to 65 percent of last year’s revenue levels.

“We’re one of the lucky ones that we’re able to stay pretty busy without indoor and patio dining,” he said. “Having a drive-thru window is a total blessing.”

For Josh Gerwin, the owner of Dr. Field Goods Kitchen, having an adjacent butcher shop and operating a stand at the Sawmill Market food hall in Albuquerque have helped keep his business afloat.

Sawmill Market has reopened and his stand is “doing fantastic,” he said, adding the butcher shop has been thriving through the pandemic.

The 25 percent indoor occupancy rule nets Gerwin eight seats in Dr. Field Goods Kitchen.

“I would say the restaurant is on death row,” Gerwin said. “It’s not making enough money.”

But he is not giving up and plans to offer indoor seating.

“I’m changing the concept, more counter service,” he said. “I will just have a kitchen staff. I think I will do it long term.”

Out on the road to Madrid, Beer Creek Brewing has essentially operated as a beer garden with the indoor restaurant on hiatus.

“Because we have such a beautiful patio, we have not opened the inside at all,” co-owner Rich Headley said. “We don’t have any intention to seat anybody inside. We don’t need to.”

Beer Creek has prospered because it has two business licenses, one for its brewery and one for its restaurant. Dining outside enables customers to take beer home, Headley said.

(27) comments

Steve Spraitz

It’s better than nothing

Maybe wages will comeback to a more ‘ normal ‘ cost than ‘ you owe us’ mentality

Ed Li

If this country was run by the restaurants and their association we’d have even more catastrophic covid stats and rates than what we currently have. Business or otherwise, everyone is sacrificing and suffering in some manner due to this pandemic. Blame the federal government for bailing out on financially assisting your restaurant/small business and instead paid billions of your tax dollars to big corporations and the church.

david J.

Your choice to go out and dine or not. But if you do, please tip like you just won the lottery.

Robert Nowak

[happybirthday]

L Vigil

You simply can't save people from themselves.

Orlie Romero

Does anyone think straight anymore?

Think about this, if you eat outside or inside your still getting served by others, you remove your mask? Huh! If you remove your mask what so ever and believe in the mask requirement you just got everyone exposed. 1 second

It 30 minutes, germs don’t go by a watch, people wake up!

Sabine Strohem

I hope the reporter will visit a few restaurants and see IF customers will be eating inside, and if so, at what capacity. In my experience before the second indoor dining ban I wasn't seeing too many folks choosing that option.

Marielle Valenzuela

It's hot, sweetie. Everyone wanted indoor dining in July and August. Maybe you noticed the triple digit heat? That's not pleasant outdoor dining, and a lot of restaurants had makeshift dining in parking lots. NOT pleasant.

Lee DiFiore

Only 3 states not allowing indoor dining CA (most covid cases in the country), NJ (second most covid deaths in the country) and NM. Huh? Yep, crushing the NM economy certainly sounds enlightened.

Marielle Valenzuela

Right. By Tyrant Lujan Grisham takes her cues from Newsom, as if we were comparable.

Emily Koyama

25% capacity....meanwhile, at Walmart and other big box stores, people are milling about, with lax social distancing. She must hate the restaurant industry

Sabine Strohem

There's a big difference between restaurants and shopping. There's a big difference between, say, The Pantry, and Walmart.

Marielle Valenzuela

Do enlighten us. People are a helluva lot closer and bumping up on each other in Walmart than they are seated at nicely spaced tables in any restaurant in New Mexico. Moron.

Philip Taccetta

At Walmart people may be “milling about” but they are all wearing masks. When on the “patio“

Or inside a restaurant there are no masks. Maybe you’d be happier if it was full occupancy with everyone wearing masks, just lifting it up for each bite or a sip of their drink.

Or maybe you don’t care if you get COVID-19?

Emily Koyama

Many of the "masks" people are wearing in the stores have unproven/dubious benefit- yet "look the part". In fact certain types have been found to break up droplets into smaller ones, increasing their ability to float further through the air. Masks also give many people a false sense of security, which makes them tend to get closer to each other. I think much of the "settled science" on masks will be revised as time goes by.

Lee DiFiore

Saw a good one today. Woman took 2 paper fast food restaurant napkins and tucked them into the lower rim of her glasses so they hung down over her nose and mouth (sort of). Strong.

Marielle Valenzuela

Sheeple are wearing masks that do absolutely nothing because the Bolshevik who runs NM has commanded it be so — not because it protects anyone, but because it's a power trip and it's mind control.

Stephanie Konda

@Marielle Valenzuela wrong. Another Trumptard 🙄

Jo Re

Emily, who eats at Walmart?

Marielle Valenzuela

She clearly does hate the Restaurant Industry, and is nursing a grudge because they dared to stand up to her tyranny and take her to court. Of course going to the Supreme Court was useless since they are all in her pocket. The most corrupt state in the union right now.

Gini Barrett

In Walmart, they are milling about. Not sitting in one spot building up aerosoles or inhaling built up aerosoles. It sucks but being stationary indoors is much more dangerous than being in motion indoors. This is not about what anyone wants or doesn't want. It's about saving people's lives. If you value getting a sandwich more than your life or the life of others.... I sure don't want to be anywhere in your airspace.

Mike Johnson

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her ally Comrade Webber, destroying Santa Fe businesses one at a time.......

Donato Velasco

now the price gouging will begin .. ready to pay 20.00 plus for a cup of coffee

Kathy Fish

This is an unrealistic and uninformed claim, one that hurts those who are most suffering now. Have you actually seen a price like this at a cafe? I suggest learning a bit more about what's at stake - and what these small-business owners are enduring - before you post poorly edited and ill-conceived statements that cause more harm than good.

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbup]

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbdown]

xavier deherrera

Won't happen. Starbucks has that monopolized that market already.

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