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Restaurants trying to stay ahead of curve making outdoor dining pleasant for customers

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON — Locally-owned restaurants are trying to stay ahead of the curve making outdoor dining as pleasant as possible for customers.

Tents are set up above spread-out tables to help combat the summer heat.

“There are whole communities that are getting behind their restaurants,” said Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. “We’re all getting sick of cooking for ourselves and doing dishes."

But efforts don't end there.

Eateries such as Clancy's Irish Cantina in Farmington extended its outdoor seating area to the side of the building, and it also hooked up a mist line cooling system into table structures.

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“We’ve seen lots of good come out of it. Obviously, it’s really hot out," Clancy's general manager Lewis McMullen said, adding the cooling systems helped make outdoor dining more enticing. “We’re keeping them full, and we’re keeping a line out of the door. It’s been pretty amazing actually, the support that we’ve been getting."

Country Family Restaurant in Kirtland is following suit with its own mist line cooling system for its outdoor table area.

In front of The Chile Pod in downtown Farmington, at least one table underneath a red tent is surrounded by an orange metal barrier. Another table is equipped with a yellow tent and spaced out onto Main Street. Construction at that particular part of the downtown area is still ongoing.

Clancy's Irish Cantina, located at 2701 E. 20th St. in Farmington, extended its outdoor dining area along the side of the building. Outdoor tables at Clancy's are now equipped with mist cooling systems and tents.

Mmm Que Rico, located 1916 E. Main St. in Farmington, has tents and barriers surrounding its outdoor tables.

Wight said knows of at least one restaurant in Las Cruces that installed a swamp cooler system for its outdoor seating area.

“We’re trying to make our customers as comfortable as possible. There’s only so much you can do,” said Wight, who used to own Way Out West Restaurant & Brewing Company in Las Cruces.

Going forward, however, Wight has her concerns.

Wight said allowing only outdoor dining in unsustainable over a longer period of time, citing incoming monsoon rains and the costs for tent structures.

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“It’s one more cost. You can’t just go to Costco and get a $100 tent. You have to get a real, professionally-done tent you can stake down," said Wight, adding it costs as much as $6,000 for a professional weatherproof tent. "The liability is crazy for those kind of things."

Wight also said most New Mexico eateries didn’t have outdoor patios before COVID-19 came into the picture, and the elements only make it worse.

The state's reinstated indoor dining ban has been extended through at least Aug. 28.

For the time being, McMullen said community support and being able to serve alcohol again has helped keep operations running.

Clancy's Irish Cantina, located at 2701 E. 20th St. in Farmington, extended its outdoor dining area along the side of the building. New Mexico's reinstated indoor dining ban remains in effect through at least August.

McMullen said Clancy's got the OK to sell alcohol again back on July 23, just two days after regaining its alcohol sales permit.

“We’ve had amazing, crazy food sales lately," McMullen said. “There’s a lot of places in town where you can’t sit down and get a drink."

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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