K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion owner Karen Johnson-Bey is expanding her restaurant’s dining area to seat an additional 30 customers. She said the new space will open Jan. 22. Matt Hollinshead photo.

Karen Johnson-Bey dealt with setback after setback in expanding her restaurant’s dining area because of COVID-19, but now the owner of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion is finally preparing to launch that extra space.

The project to add extra dining space started in December 2019. Johnson-Bey said everything was set to go at least two weeks before COVID-19 entered New Mexico in March 2020. And now it’ll soon come to fruition, officially opening Jan. 22 β€” National Southern Food Day.

“We are very excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Johnson-Bey said.

K’Lynn’s first opened in 2015. Johnson-Bey said her restaurant kept growing to where extra dining space was necessary to accommodate extra patrons and equipment.

“That one side just wasn’t enough, almost immediately,” she said.

Johnson-Bey said K’Lynn’s, at 4300 Ridgecrest Drive, Unit O, will be able to seat an additional 30 customers in the new dining area β€” more than double the indoor dining capacity.

“It accommodates everything we need to grow,” she said.

Johnson-Bey said the new space will give her about 1,200 total square feet of dining space.

K’Lynn’s was hit hard by the financial toll of COVID-19, like other locally owned eateries. Johnson-Bey said she had to settle for carryout only in the early days of the pandemic, then dealt with staffing shortages after indoor dining services were restored.

She also said she couldn’t initially use the brand-new silverware she’d bought because use of the dishwasher was limited, as no one was willing to work during the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s been a lot, it really has,” she said.

K’Lynn’s serves Southern delicacies like gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, sweet potato pie and beignets.

Johnson-Bey’s called the Rio Rancho area home since 1977, and she said it’s better that she was able to expand operations here rather than elsewhere.

“This (space) had sat here quite a while, vacant,” she said. “It made more sense according to the contract to go this way, and that’s what I did.”

For more information, visit klynnsfusion.com.

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Matt Hollinshead | Staff writer