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Las Cruces restaurants bristle at loss of indoor dining, some adding outdoor patios

A server waits on customers in outdoor dining at a Las Cruces restaurant.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s revamped public health order took effect this week, and some restaurant owners weren't happy that they had to roll back indoor dining.

Many restaurants around Las Cruces are trying new concepts to try and keep their doors open and their employees working - most notably, creating new patio spaces to comply with the order, which still allows outdoor dining.

Some restaurants have big tents set up or patio furniture with umbrellas in an effort to keep diners at their facility.

Restaurants in Las Cruces recently joined others across the state in protesting the governor's prohibition of dine-in service. The New Mexico Restaurant Association has also helped organize an online petition.

The association estimates that out of the 82,000 people employed by the industry statewide, more than 50,000 jobs have been lost due to the pandemic and the resulting public health orders. Association CEO Carol Wight said only about 20,000 of those jobs had come back when restaurants were allowed to resume some limited indoor dining in June.

The industry also argues that going to a restaurant is a more regulated, safer experience than shopping at any of the big box stores which have operated throughout the pandemic.

Republican lawmakers also have been critical of the Democratic governor, saying her policies have amounted to picking winners and losers amid the economic fallout. A lawsuit over fines levied against any businesses found in violation of the state's public health order is pending before the state Supreme Court.

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