Hallelujah! It’s about time! Hang on! What else can I say?
Karen Johnson-Bey, owner of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion restaurant
Word that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Thursday lifted the mask mandate in New Mexico spread like wildfire within minutes of her announcement.
The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce fired out an email alert to its members: “We have some good news to share! Effective immediately, New Mexico’s mask mandate has ended.”
In white type on a black background, the New Mexico Restaurant Association announced simply: “Mask Mandate lifted.”
Both had links to news stories. Here is ours: https://rrobserver.com/gov-lifts-mask-mandate/
Said Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, which represents more than 1,000 restaurants statewide: “I’m sure restaurants will be encouraged by this announcement by the governor.”
“We saw a significant drop in customers when the mask mandate was initiated last August,” she said. “As the rate of Omicron subsided, we were starting to see people returning to indoor dining. We hope this continues that trend. It certainly signals that the end is in sight.”
Karen Johnson-Bey, owner of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion restaurant, was a little more emotional.
“Hallelujah! It’s about time. Hang on. What else can I say?” she said.
Johnson-Bey added that customers or staff who want to wear masks still can, but they will no longer be required.
“We have all had enough of this nonsense,” she said. “We’re happy.”
Nico Ortiz, owner of Turtle Mountain Brewing Co., which has two restaurants in Rio Rancho, said he was shocked to receive the alert from the state’s restaurant association.
“I think it is excellent,” he said. “This governor has been quick to impose mandates and very reluctant to lift them. I am pretty sure that nobody anticipated it.”
For restaurant employees, he said, the masks were a problem because their work environment was hot and it was difficult to breathe through them. And trying to enforce the mask mandate “has always been a problem,” he said.
While Ortiz said he wasn’t sure that lifting the mandate would result in a bottom-line boost, the restaurant experience will be more positive. Customers, he said, would “see that maybe we are at the tail end of this whole mess that began in March 2020. It’s going to be nice to see people’s faces.”
Customers and employees may still wear their masks if they prefer, he said.
“I never was a fan of the masks. I am fully vaccinated and boosted, but if the governor isn’t going to require my employees to wear masks, neither am I,” Ortiz said.
For Destiny Schermerhorn, owner of The Hopper Pub and Pizzeria, the announcement was completely unexpected. The Hopper has one restaurant in Rio Rancho and one in Albuquerque.
“I feel like it came about abruptly, kind of like it came out of nowhere,” she said. “It will definitely help my bottom line. It’s one more step towards normal.”