May 22, 2020

State suspends permits of restaurants that defied public health

The state suspended the food service permits for two restaurants that defied the state’s public health order and allowed dine-in service.

The state Environment Department made the announced Friday afternoon.

The two restaurants are Jalisco Cafe in Silver City and Anaheim Jacks in Ruidoso. The department cited a portion of the Food Service and Sanitation Act that states, the department can suspend a license if “conditions within a food service establishment present a substantial danger of illness, serious physical harm or death to consumers who might patronize the food service establishment.”

The restaurants can appeal the decision.

If the restaurants continue to serve food, the department warned that they could legally pursue civil penalties in state district court of $500 per person.

“When any business presents an imminent risk to public health or the environment, the Department will not hesitate to use all of its authorities to protect New Mexicans,” NMED Secretary James Kenney said. “Unlike these two businesses, the vast majority of restaurants are operating in compliance and protecting public health from the threat of COVID-19.”

The New Mexico Restaurant Association supported the decision.

“The New Mexico Restaurant Association does not support restaurants opening against the Governor’s orders,” New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned in March, when the state’s public health emergency first closed many businesses including dine-in restaurants, that the state could include penalties related to businesses’ licenses for violating the state public health order.

Earlier this week, she said the state appeared on track to reopen restaurants for limited dine-in services by June 1.

Jalisco Cafe received backlash from local residents after opening and posting a sign that said, “Let’s get rid of Wuhan Lujan.” 

Anaheim Jacks opened outdoor patio dining last week.