Judge orders closure of defiant ABQ restaurant - Albuquerque Journal

Judge orders closure of defiant ABQ restaurant

An Albuquerque restaurant that has operated in defiance of city- and state-ordered COVID-19 health rules was ordered by a judge Friday to cease operations, city officials said.

Backstreet Grill’s health permit was suspended earlier this year and later revoked due to the management’s refusal to comply with Environmental Health Department regulations, the agency said Friday.

A sign on the front patio of the Backstreet Grill. The restaurant remained open Friday despite a new court order requiring it to cease operations. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

On Friday, 2nd Judicial District Judge Nancy Franchini ordered the restaurant to close because it lacked a city food-service permit, the agency said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Backstreet Grill Friday said no one there was willing to comment about the order. The restaurant remained open Friday evening.

Backstreet Grill has operated without a city-issued food service permit since May 6.

The dispute centers on the failure of restaurant employees to wear masks or face coverings in the workplace, as required by the state’s Public Health Order and COVID-19 Safe Practices.

Court records show that Back Street Grill has continued to operate in spite of a series of measures taken by the city and the New Mexico Environment Department to ensure compliance with COVID-19 requirements.

City officials also contend that Backstreet Grill has refused to allow city health inspectors into the restaurant, said Mark DiMenna, acting director for the city’s health department.

“We were forced to revoke Backstreet Grill’s permit because they threatened and denied access to our inspectors, and repeatedly removed our lawfully posted inspection tax,” DiMenna said in a written statement.

As a result, he said, the agency has, since January, been unable to conduct a food-safety inspection at Backstreet Grill.

On April 30, the Environmental Health Department issued a notice of closure under the city’s Food Sanitation Ordinance, according to a lawsuit the city filed last month against the restaurant.

On May 6, the city suspended Backstreet’s permit to operate a food service establishment, the lawsuit said. Backstreet did not appeal the suspension and continued to operate, it said.

The restaurant has also defied efforts by the state to enforce COVID-19 protocols.

In a separate proceeding, the New Mexico Environment Department asked a 2nd Judicial District judge on May 4 to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the restaurant from operating.

A judge granted the state’s request on May 6, but Backstreet continued to operate, according to the city’s lawsuit. That temporary restraining order is no longer in effect.

DiMenna said Friday that, if the restaurant continues to operate despite the judge’s order, the city will seek a hearing to determine an appropriate course of action.

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