After more than a decade of serving Carlsbad’s residents and visitors the Trinity Hotel and Restaurant was ordered to close completely after it defied New Mexico’s COVID-19 public health order and kept offering dine-in service weeks after such operations were ordered to cease.
Indoor dining across the state was shutdown by the state in March when the pandemic was first discovered but reopened in June when the spread appeared to decline.
But on July 13, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that indoor dining be banned again amid an apparent resurgence of the virus throughout the state.
But two Carlsbad restaurant owners continue to serve patrons inside despite the health order, and afterward their food service permits were suspended by New Mexico Environment Department.
Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to fine the restaurants $5,000 per day while they operated without permits and the Trinity Hotel and Restaurant and Pizza Inn, which has two locations in Carlsbad and one in Hobbs, closed their indoor seating and began preparations to serve customers outside.
But last Friday, the state ordered both restaurants to close completely, and did not immediately reinstate their permits.
Both eateries announced they would comply with the closure that day via Facebook.
Trinity owner Janie Balzano who also sits on the board of the New Mexico Restaurant Association – which sued the governor to question her authority to close indoor dining – said the industry is waiting on a decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, she said the restaurant expanded outdoor seating to Balzano Vineyards north of Carlsbad, which Balzano also owns.
“It’s been excellent. We have very loyal customers,” she said. “It does seem like she (Lujan Grisham) is penalizing southeast New Mexico.”
The case was pulled to the Supreme Court after Fifth Judicial District Judge Ray Romero issued a restraining order that would have blocked the state from enforcing the order, but the state filed and was granted an emergency stay by New Mexico’s highest court.
As a final verdict is awaited in the case, Balzano said her business is in danger of closing for good.
“Because we broke the law by doing indoor dining and the court upheld the state’s right to penalize us, that’s why they made us close,” she said. “The entire state is waiting to see how this lawsuit goes. The entire state is hurting.”