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‘Let us serve’: Las Cruces restaurant owners, servers protest New Mexico dining restrictions

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Restaurant owners and members of the service industry across Las Cruces on Monday afternoon protested the New Mexico governor's decision to close dining rooms.

“We are standing for restaurants’ rights to keep their employees employed and their right to do business," said Marci Dickerson, who organized the protest at the Game II in east Las Cruces.

"Restaurants like us that don't have a drive-thru or patios have a hard time meeting up sales and keeping employees," said Ramiro Alcala, who has owned Las Trancas for 26 years in Las Cruces.

"Sales are down 90 percent," Alcala said, who was participating in the protest. "It's tough to survive."

Before the shutdown, Alcala said he employed 23 people. Now, he has just six people working at the restaurant.

"There are employees that didn't qualify for unemployment and I can't employ them because there are no sales," Alcala said.

Restaurants like Nopalito and La Nueva Casita Café are also struggling.

“Getting the workers and then losing them, and then getting new workers and retraining them again - that’s a big downfall," said Victor Gallegos, the owner of Nopalito. "That hurts us real bad.”

“We are being careful here," said Jaime Salazar, the general manager of La Nueva Casita Café. "We’ve taken all the precautions. We’ve stopped people from entering our door without a mask.”

Last week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she was rolling back the reopening of the state, limiting dining to outdoor seating and curbside pickup only.

“There has been significant community spread in our state since New Mexico opened more businesses,” explained state Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel last week. “That spread has not been sufficiently mitigated with Covid-safe behaviors like face-coverings."

The governor's office responded to Monday's protest with this statement from Lujan Grisham's official spokeswoman..

"The governor has been very clear that if New Mexico's Covid-19 cases continued to trend upwards, the state would need to retract some of the reopening measures we had been able to enact, including indoor dining. As the governor and Dr. Scrase noted during their press conference last week, a high percentage of the state's workplace rapid responses have been to restaurants. By economic sector, food industries make up the largest portion of Covid-19 workplace rapid responses and have already increased from previous weeks to last week.​ The governor was also very clear that this is not meant to "punish" restaurants, but it is an unavoidable consequence of New Mexicans continuing to conduct themselves in a way that continues to spread Covid-19 throughout the state."

You can watch the entire protest rally in the video player below.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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