Eight New Mexico restaurants had their foodservice permits suspended last week by the state’s Environment Department for allowing dine-in service in violation of current public health orders. The department held that the businesses were endangering the health of their employees and customers.

NMED suspended food service permits from two Pizza Inns in Carlsbad, two locations of Los Hermanitos and TJ’s Diner in Farmington, Casey’s Restaurant and a Pizza Inn in Hobbs, and the Trinity Hotel Restaurant in Carlsbad. The eight establishments provided dine-in service to customers, “which presents a public health risk to employees and customers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

NMED cites the Food Service and Sanitation Act (NMSA 1978, Section 25-1-9) which authorizes the state to immediately suspend a permit 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 Pizza Inn in Carlsbad and Trinity Hotel had publicly announced on July 11 they would openly defy the indoor dining ban, which may have attracted the attention of NMED.

“These restaurants must cease all operations immediately,” a news release states. “Failing to do so may result in legal action from the Department. If the restaurants correct the violations, they may request that NMED reinstate their food service permit.”

NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said 15 percent of all rapid responses were at restaurants due to an employee testing positive for COVID.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of food establishments around the state who are committed to protecting their employees, customers and their industry,” Kenney added.

In addition, NMED inspected two Weck’s restaurants located in Santa Fe and Farmington which were operating in violation by providing dine-in service. Upon inspection, the restaurant management immediately agreed to comply and ceased indoor dining.

Arguing against the ban on indoor dining is the New Mexico Restaurant Association, which filed a lawsuit in the 5th Judicial District. The lawsuit seeks to bar the state agency from pulling the food permits for non-compliance. Six restaurants are also listed as litigants.

The restaurant association has also organized a statewide “Let Us Serve” campaign, which is supported by Bodega Burger Co. in Socorro and the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio.