BERNALILLO — With the pandemic also infecting the restaurant industry, the Freight House Kitchen + Tap in Bernalillo closed its doors.
The Freight House is owned by Matt DiGregory, who owns several Range Cafés.
Before the pandemic, he owned seven Range Cafés, the Standard Diner in downtown Albuquerque and the Freight House. Since the pandemic, DiGregory closed two Range Cafés — one in Albuquerque and one in Las Vegas, N.M. — and has changed the Standard Diner to a Range Café, he said.
One of DiGregory’s proudest achievements as a business owner was employing over 550 people. Since the pandemic, he employs 150 people, he said.
“It was devastating. (COVID) just flipped the world upside down, which everyone realizes, and a lot of people think restaurant people are all uber-wealthy and we are all doing great and can survive something like this,” DiGregory said. “The fact of the matter is, that the restaurants are successful when they are operating and going full speed. The minute you stop, there is a tsunami of bills that come in behind that you have to pay. With no income coming in, it completely wiped us out.”
The Freight House opened in Bernalillo in 2015, up the street from the Range Café on Camino del Pueblo.
“It is with great sadness that we must say farewell to Freight House Kitchen + Tap. We have been honored to have served you over the last five years in Bernalillo,” according to the restaurant’s website.
DiGregory said that the news is not all bad. The company will be incorporating some of the Freight House’s favorite menu items on to the Range Café’s menu.
“It was super tough to have to close that one down because it’s a favorite concept of mine. It was one we had worked on for a long time,” he said.
Being a business owner during COVID-19 is like hitting a brick wall going 100 miles per hour, DiGregory said.
“So it has been one challenge after another. Not being able to get food supply, not being able to bring employees back, not being able to serve at full capacity, given the opportunity to expand into temporary patio space but the weather is so hot that people can’t sit outside,” he said.
“And now, we are going into cool time and it is going to get harder and harder to put people outside,” he said.
And the most challenging part is people believe restaurants are about “profit over people,” DiGregory said.
“Right now, no restaurants have any profit. There is nobody making money,” he said. “The only thing that we are about right now is people, and that is our employees and trying to keep them employed, so they have income, so they are not losing their homes and everything else, and there is nothing that matters more to me at least than that right now.”
All of DiGregory’s businesses follow COVID-safe practices, DiGregory said.
“I wish everyone could be in the restaurant industry to see how difficult it is,” he said. “(Restaurants) are just trying to survive and keep people employees and keep our doors open as best we can.”
DiGregory said the restaurant industry will be better and stronger once the pandemic is over.
He hopes to bring the Freight House back to Bernalillo.