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Las Cruces restaurant struggles to keep outdoor seating tent up

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Jodie York, owner of ‘A Bite of Belgium,’ fights with the City of Las Cruces to keep her outdoor seating tent up. A permit deadline is quickly approaching. 

York said Covid-19 forced her to adapt her business to include outdoor seating to serve her customers better. 

After spending over $250,000 for the temporary structure, York said the city had given the restaurant a permit extension that's set to expire in February. 

Worried about the permit renewal, she said, she took to Facebook to get a response that would reach the council.

York said that they take precautions to ensure the tent is safe for those dining outdoors. These include closing the tent when the wind exceeds 20 mph, bolting it down, and centralized medical-grade heating and cooling. 

“People love the tent; they feel safe in the tent,” said York. “They just can’t believe this is happening to us.”

York said that the city told her the only way to renew is to make the structure permanent.

York said there are no contractors available, and with the nationwide labor and supply shortages, she finds it nearly impossible and extremely costly. 

“It's frustrating as a business, we made it through a fire in 2018, we’re making it through COVID, we have customers that like our restaurant and a safe place for our customers, yet the city says it's not safe,” said York.

Assistant City Manager Eric Enriquez said that there would have to be some changes for it to be considered a permanent structure.

“In order to bring those up to code would require a lot, we’re talking plumbing, we’re talking ADA requirements, we’re talking fire code, fire protection systems, sprinkler systems, alarm systems, a lot of those codes to bring it up to a permanent structure,” said Enriquez.

Enriquez said they are flexible and understand that it is still a health issue.

“We’re not opposed to extending again for a period of time, to help them to either become compliant or see what other avenues they can to be successful in business, because we're still under the pandemic and we understand it's a health issue,” he said.

He added that 25 businesses applied for the use of tents,  'A Bite of Belgium' is the last restaurant to still have a tent on their property.

Meanwhile, the restaurant owner says that if they need to close the outdoor dining area, it could mean laying off some staff and potentially losing about half of her revenue

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Brianna Perez

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