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Golf course reopens, but most Grants businesses stay shut

Grants Mayor Martin Hicks is flanked by supporters Joaquin Roibal, left, and Alexis Martinez Johnson as he talks to others Monday afternoon outside City Hall. The mayor invited all businesses in the city to reopen in a challenge to directives from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

GRANTS – Only a few businesses in this city an hour west of Albuquerque reopened Monday, even though the mayor said all were free to do so.

Mayor Martin Hicks did make good on his promise to reopen the city-owned golf course, defying New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health orders intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. That prompted a visit to the course by New Mexico State Police, who issued a violation notice.

“Tell them to come back and give me a citation, because the notice doesn’t get me to court yet,” Hicks said. “I need that citation so I can sue the governor.”

He said golfers on the course “scrambled when they saw the State Police coming.”

“I told them to get back out on the course,” Hicks said.

The mayor said he was aware of four businesses that opened against the governor’s order, including two gun shops. He wasn’t aware of any other notices given out by State Police.

David Loeffler, owner of Loeffler’s Guns, Etc., is siding with Hicks.

“I’m showing my support for the mayor,” he said. A sign on the door of his business advised customers to practice physical distancing.

Loeffler said he received a cease-and-desist order from the State Police, “which I find to be illegal and unconstitutional.”

He called the governor’s orders “ill considered, overblown and poorly applied.”

“I have customers and friends who are stockmen, cattlemen, sheepmen,” Loeffler said. “They have problems with predators. They need to have guns and ammunition to handle that. I have neighbors who are worried about the release of violent criminals. … This is an essential business, especially for a rural area.”

State Police also visited the businesses owned by Ronnie and Cheryl Pynes at Hillcrest Center, a strip mall. They reopened their storage company Monday, which is on the list of essential businesses and operates out of Cheryl Pynes’ retail handbag shop.

“They specifically asked us if we were selling purses or handbags, because that’s not on the list,” Ronnie Pynes said. “… They wanted to make sure we were legit.”

“We were prepared,” Cheryl Pynes said.

The handbag part of the space their businesses share was taped off. None of their tenants in the strip mall whose businesses were deemed nonessential reopened.

Hicks said that last week more than 80 businesses in the city were closed, which he said has caused city revenue to decrease by 30%, forcing him to lay off city workers, which he blames on the governor. He said that’s why he’s seeking a court confrontation with the governor and not one between the city’s police force and State Police.

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