in Sandoval County the restaurant landscape is still encouraging with new restaurants popping up every day — Dora Dominguez, Sandoval County economic development director



Who hasn’t ever said: “Where should we go eat today?”

Post COVID-19 this question could be a loaded one because your favorite restaurant may no longer be around or there may be a perception that the wait is too long or that service might be lagging.

Dora Dominguez, Sandoval County economic development director

However, in Sandoval County the restaurant landscape is still encouraging with new restaurants popping up every day. Compile this with the added bonus that many already established restaurants survived COVID-19 and are working to recover and grow.

Small Business owners will tell you running a business is for the tireless. This sentiment has never been more true during the ongoing pandemic. Many local restaurateurs became experts at seeking out resources needed to keep their businesses afloat. These included federal, state and local business assistance grant programs.

Throughout the pandemic, the small business administration offered nearly $5 billion in relief through the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster loans and a host of other grant programs. In 2020, Sandoval County created its own $1 million CARES Act grant to help qualified small businesses stay open. This was such a success that the county again created a Small Business Continuity Grant, derived from The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding it received last year.

The county’s ARPA funded Small Business Continuity Grant effort began June 17, 2021. Within six-months, it handed out 45 small businesses grant awards averaging $15,000. Of the county ARPA grant recipients 11 restaurant and pubs received a much needed economic boost to help them survive and stay open.

This list included some Rio Rancho favorites; Turtle Mountain Brewing Company, Smokin’ Good Bistro & Deli, O’Hare’s Grill & Pub, Las Cazuelas Mexican Grill and Brew Lab 101.

At the close of these COVID-19 relief funds, the almost $2 million awarded to these small businesses were key to keeping them alive from 2021 thru 2022. Grant awards for local small businesses ranged from $2,000 to $100,000 under the ARPA grant program.  By Dec. 30, 2021, the full $1 million of ARPA allocations was encumbered.

Small business owners in New Mexico make up two-thirds of the net new jobs and employ more than half of our state’s private workforce. These numbers truly mean so much more when you meet many of these business owners in person to provide direct financial assistance. While most state and federal pandemic-related grant opportunities have expired, the county’s Business Development website and NM Finance Authority websites will continue to be updated as new programs are added.