Rio Rancho businesses take different approaches to the “reset” when deciding to stay open or temporarily close.
On Nov. 16, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public-health order took effect. When announcing the new order Nov. 13, she referred to it as a “reset.”
O’Hare’s Grille & Pub has learned from the first round of shutdowns in March, said co-owner Heather Armstrong. The business is evaluating its to-go orders over the next two weeks to determine if the restaurant should temporarily close.
This decision also depends on if the governor extends the public-health order, Armstrong said.
“So we are hoping it is just a two-week reset and we get on a better mark where they start to look at it county-by-county,” she said.
Armstrong is not counting on the reset to be only two weeks and fears Sandoval County’s COVID numbers will be grouped in with much higher Bernalillo County numbers due to its proximity.
LOCAL Brewhouse owner Steve Pitt predicts the same thing. He has decided to close his restaurant until Jan. 1, Pitt said.
“It is not cost-effective for us to do curb-side,” Pitt said.
O’Hare’s has the same dilemma.
It needs to bring in at least $1,000 a day for curb-side service to be cost-effective. On Tuesday, the restaurant had about 22 orders, making about $650, Armstrong said.
“Normally, on a Tuesday we would do about $3,000 worth of business,” she said.
O’Hare’s finances are better postured now than for the shutdowns earlier in the pandemic, Armstrong said. She is confident the restaurant can make it through six weeks of being closed but after that, it starts to become dicier, she said.
“I feel like this is the turning point and we are kind of on the road to full recovery with all of this. I think we can see it through. It is just frustrating because any gains or stability we made through the summer months will just disappear on us,” she said.
The restaurant has laid off 22 employees and reduced its kitchen staff’s hours. To break even, the public-health order would need to allow at least 25 percent occupancy for indoor dining, Armstrong said.
In addition, the restaurant’s product cost increased this month.
“The less business you have, the more your product costs go up,” she said.
Most restaurants order food supplies on Thursdays and have deliveries made the following day, because the governor made her public-health order announcement on a Friday, restaurants like O’Hare’s and The LOCAL Brewhouse had more food waste, Pitt said.
“The LOCAL Brewhouse saw the writing on the wall. They knew it just wasn’t going to work to just do to-go. We really need the community’s support to see us through it,” Armstrong said. “It is hard; it’s just so hard. It’s such a conflicting thing, and we all want to be safe and make sure vulnerable populations are not affected by (COVID) but we all just want to have our employees and regular income and have our businesses be able to be profitable.”
The LOCAL Brewhouse at 300 Unser Blvd. temporarily closed early in the pandemic and plans to do the same for the reset, Pitt said. When restaurants were able to reopen at 25 percent occupancy, Pitt was able to re-hire all of his original employees.
“We were doing quite well when they reopened us. We have a lot of local support. But this one is a bit rough because the only reason we were OK was because I took a Small Business Administration loan.”
Expecting to be open at patio only or some percentage of indoor dining, the SBA loan was meant to help cover any unmet costs while operating through winter months. With the new health-orders as they are, the loan is being used to pay bills while being closed, he said.
Like O’Hare’s, Pitt has received a grant from the city and money from the Paycheck Protection Program.
“Me and my employees are really close so we all sat down and met and figured out how it is going to go down,” he said.
Pitt laid off 14 employees and expects to be able to re-hire them in the New Year.
“We really do appreciate the support we got from locals and everybody who came and supported us when we were open; we will be back,” Pitt said.