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Editorial: It’s time for takeout

Sagche’s Coffee House, in the shopping center at St. Michael’s and Pacheco, is among the eateries offering takeout service under the governor’s order banning dine-in customers at all restaurants and pubs. (Mark Oswald/For Journal North)

Buy meals, not guns.

And make that to go.

We’re all struggling these days with how to react to the coronavirus crisis.

We’re in a health care emergency, for sure. But only in recent days has it begun to sink in just how much and how broadly fighting the virus will impact the nation’s economy.

The reaction of some in the Santa Fe area, judging from reports from local gun stores, has been to acquire more weaponry to fight off anticipated marauding hordes out to steal toilet paper and canned goods from defenseless households as the virus panic increases.

This fear ignores the fact that supply chains have not been interrupted and marauders can still go the supermarket to raid the produce and meat sections (just go early, you zombie hordes) and, at least on some occasions, toilet paper.

A better move is to do everything we can to support each other, including by volunteering for food banks or meal delivery services or, now, just by buying takeout meals when you can.

With social distancing the only way to curb the virus, governments in New Mexico and elsewhere have ordered the doors closed at businesses where people gather – bars and restaurants, and shopping malls.

This has to be worse for most small businesses than a stock market crash. No customers means the end of your livelihood.

Santa Fe and other towns in northern New Mexico, mostly without major factories, manufacturers or other large employers (with Los Alamos the exception), are built on small business. Santa Fe has been ranked near the top for the most restaurants per capita among American cities.

Many local businesses are owner-operated, classic “mom-and-pop” operations. Think of food trucks or the small diners where the cook behind the counter is also the owner. Or retail stores where the owner runs the cash register.

So far, as the federal government implements plans to pump billions of dollars out to help the economy, we haven’t heard much about what can be done for these kinds of self-employed people or freelancers in other lines of work.

There apparently will be a loan program to cover small business payrolls during the virus-caused business interruption (and there’s talk that the “loans” won’t have to be repaid). Other plans would speed up the process and loosen the rules for acquiring unemployment benefits.

But what about the cases where the owner, alone, pretty much IS the business?

There’s some good news on that front. New Mexico’s labor department, the agency now known as the Department of Workforce Solutions, is asking for federal authorization to extend unemployment benefits to an estimated 62,000 self-employed New Mexicans who don’t currently qualify. The department says the benefits would help people who won’t be covered until the feds activate a “Disaster Unemployment Program.”

Under the business restrictions imposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishman, pubs and restaurants can still sell takeout or delivery meals. For the traditional fast-food chains, this will probably work out OK.

For local eateries, having no sit-down diners means no jobs for many employees, and surviving on takeout sales is an iffy proposition. But many are trying to make a go of it.

Check the websites of your favorite restaurants, or just call, to find out if they are offering takeout or delivery.

Edible New Mexico has set up a web page that lists restaurants in Santa Fe, Taos and elsewhere that are offering take-out, family-style meals, curbside pickup, delivery options and gift cards (go to https://www.ediblenm.com/support-local-guide/). Various delivery services also list the restaurants they serve. Domino’s is not your only option.

So, when you can, make it a takeout night, particularly from small restaurants that need help the most. You just might help save a local culinary institution or two.

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