It wasn’t business as usual, but it was business to some degree last Monday, when customers returned to restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, barbershops and gyms — a welcome return for these businesses to Rio Rancho and elsewhere in the state since they were forced to close their doors to guests in March.
The governor’s late-May announcement allowed restaurant dining rooms and gyms to operate at 50 percent capacity starting June 1. While hair salons and barber shops could reopen with “COVID-safe practices” in place and at 25 percent capacity.
Breweries and bars that did not have at least 50 percent of their revenue come from food are still closed, except for delivery and carryout orders if their liquor license allows.
The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a few “grand re-openings” to celebrate businesses; those included Shop on Southern long-time businesses like Turtle Mountain Brewing Company, Joe’s Pasta House, Salon Deluxe, Elevate Trampoline Park and O’Hare’s.
COVID-safe practices included limits on seating at a table (maximum of six people), stringent sanitization practices, social distancing and health practices. The governor’s declaration also requested that restaurant guests sign in when arriving to track potential COVID-19 spread information, since made an optional practice.
Businesses will take some time to ramp back up as they re-hire their staffs and re-train them for the “new normal.”
Staff at these businesses will wear masks and partitions will be in place to ensure guests’ and workers’ safety.
“Residents and customers, these businesses look to impress you with their efforts,” said an RRRCC news release. “Please give them the opportunity to show you the work they are putting in to provide a healthy COVID-safe environment for you.”
Turtle Mountain Brewing Company: Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz is a warrior, having survived the yearlong construction project on Southern Boulevard, and then a few months’ closure.
“I was never in fear — I’m one of the fortunate few, one of the fortunate few in Rio Rancho to have a loyal base,” Ortiz said, noting, “Revenues fell by 45 percent.
“March 18 was our last day inside,” he said last week. “We opened this past Wednesday (May 27), after the governor OK’d the patio (being opened on a limited basis).
“The community supported us greatly, purchasing food … through go-to orders.”
But, he added, 27 of his 60 employees had to be furloughed, and “I’m slowly adding a few (back).
He said he’s hopeful of seeing the governor clear restaurants to go to 100-percent capacity by Aug. 1.
Turtle Mountain’s full-capacity rate is 325, Ortiz said, so the 160-plus customers allowed in under the 50-percent mandate “is fine for us.
“We have a huge footprint — we are happy.”
Dairy Queen: Despite many eateries having to close, reduce offerings or shut down for good, business has been good for this 20-year establishment on Southern.
“We are up in sales,” owner Tony Otero happily noted. “We’re one of the few places that had a drive-thru. Knock on wood – we’ve been very fortunate.”
So, too, has been his workforce: “I didn’t lay anyone off,” he said. “Two left for family matters (and have been replaced).”
As of last week, though, he chose not to take advantage of the 50 percent capacity ruling, rationalizing that if he were to open up his small dining room, meaning reducing his current 10 tables to five, he’d have to add two more employees, which wouldn’t necessarily be cost-effective — one to stand at the entrance and regulate incoming customers and another to quickly clean and sanitize tables just vacated.
The DQ’s small patio is open to customers, with the few tables there socially distanced.
“Hopefully, the 15th,” is when he’ll open the interior dining area, depending on when the governor OK’s 100 percent capacity.
Overall, though, he said, “It’s been unsettling, trying to figure out the new normal.”
Randy’s Family Shop: Randy Cordova’s 20-year business, also on Southern and just west of the DQ, had a long line Monday when the governor opened up salons and barbershops to 25 percent capacity.
Cordova and a few other barbers — wearing masks — stayed busy, with customers giving their names to a woman at the door, and then waiting outside until a chair cleared.
The new public health order came as New Mexico continues to be one of the few states meeting CDC guidelines to start reopening. This order lasts 30 days; Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said it could be amended in that time if things change.
The state also rolled out a new program called “Rapid Response.” If an employee at any workplace tests positive for COVID-19, the state will go to that workplace and test co-workers.
At an undetermined date in the future, as the state continues to track gating criteria and progress in the fight against the virus, such data will help determine the timeline for theaters, casinos, museums, zoos, bowling alleys, mass gatherings and more.
Here’s a list of pandemic rules:
• Restaurants may operate indoor dine-in service at 50 percent of maximum occupancy in accordance with COVID-safe practices.
– Bar and counter seating prohibited; no standing service.
– Six feet of distance between tables of seated customers.
– Discontinue service stations that require customers to congregate.
• Hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, massage services and nail salons may operate at 25 percent of maximum occupancy.
– Accept clients on an appointment-only basis.
• Indoor malls may open at 25 percent of maximum occupancy.
– Loitering prohibited; food courts must remain closed.
• Gyms may operate at 50 percent of maximum occupancy in accordance with COVID-safe practices.
• Pools may be used only for lap-swimming and lessons of up to two students; pools must otherwise adhere to CDC guidelines for pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds.
– Personal training permitted for up to two trainees.
• Drive-in theaters permitted with COVID-safe practices.
• Additional state parks will reopen in phases.
• Hotels may operate at 50 percent of maximum occupancy under COVID-safe practices.
• 14-day quarantine order for airport arrivals amended to permit certain business travel.
• Retailers and houses of worship may operate at 25 percent of maximum occupancy.
• Bars remain temporarily closed.
• Breweries/wineries can do curbside pickup where permitted by license.
• Face coverings must be worn in public settings.
• Mass gatherings and congregations still unsafe and prohibited.
• Stay home as much as possible to help minimize the spread.