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Kirtland restaurant becomes 4th in San Juan County to have food service permit suspended

Food service permits for four county businesses have been suspended

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Country Family Restaurant, located at 4205 U.S. Highway 64 in Kirtland, is pictured in an undated file photo. The restaurant had its food service permit suspended by the New Mexico Environment Department.
  • Country Family Restaurant at 4205 U.S. Highway 64 in Kirtland had its food service permit suspended by the New Mexico Environment Department.
  • Nine restaurants statewide have seen food service permits suspended since July 14, a day after public health restrictions were re-implemented which prohibited indoor dining in restaurants.
  • Indoor dining was prohibited as it presented a public health risk to customers and employees, according to the state health department press release.

FARMINGTON — A Kirtland restaurant has become the fourth in San Juan County to have its food service permit suspended after continuing to offer indoor dining in violation of the state's public health order.

The restaurant owner says he didn't seek to explicitly defy Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's orders but felt it was necessary to take care of his employees, his livelihood and serve the community.

Country Family Restaurant at 4205 U.S. Highway 64 in Kirtland had its food service permit suspended by the New Mexico Environment Department, department spokesperson Maddy Hayden said on July 23.

The Kirtland business joins TJs Diner at 119 E. Main St. and both Los Hermanitos locations — 3560 E. Main St. and 2400 W. Main St. — in Farmington in having its permits suspended.

Related:  NMED suspends food service permits for three Farmington restaurant locations

Nine restaurants statewide have seen food service permits suspended since July 14, a day after public health restrictions were re-implemented which prohibited indoor dining in restaurants, according to Hayden.

The Weck's restaurant at 2800 E. Main St. in Farmington ceased indoor dining after being inspected by the state on July 14 and being found in violation of the state public health orders.

Indoor dining is prohibited as it presents a public health risk to customers and employees, according to the state health department press release.

As of July 13, there were 3,049 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the previous two weeks, which accounted for about 20% of all positive cases since the pandemic started, according to the governor's office.

Country Family Restaurant Owner Steve Jackson told The Daily Times the business has been doing everything possible to keep customers and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More:Controversy centers on sign posted by Kirtland restaurant owner

He added the state has not shown any proof that indoor dining increases the spread of COVID-19.

State environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a July 14 statement that 15% of all “rapid responses” for COVID-19 from the previous week came from an employee testing positive at a restaurant.

As owner of the restaurant, Jackson said the livelihood of his family was impacted by closing indoor dining as their income came from the business.

The business did receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but the money went to items including paychecks and utility payments, Jackson said.

There was no money left for the business owner to pay for their groceries and make house payments, according to Jackson.

Food:  Farmington restaurant owner closes dining room after facing loss of food service permit

He was thankful for the assistance from the PPP loan to help his employees, but he believes most of his employees would have been fine coming back to work without any assistance.

With the food service permit being suspended, Jackson said it puts his 30 employees out of a job.

His employees were offered unemployment by the state along with the $600 a week in extra federal unemployment funds.

Jackson said the extra unemployment funds didn't help his employees as the $600 a week is set to expire at the end of the month with no definitive answer if it will continue or be replaced.

The business was at the center of a social media firestorm after a sign posted on the door was found offensive by area residents.

More:  New Mexico takes action against Carlsbad restaurants open despite COVID-19 health order

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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