DEMING – Arguably, the backbone of our local economy are the home-owned and operated restaurants. During the state emergency health order in response to COVID-19, which causes the coronavirus, restaurants have been the hardest hit in terms restrictions to combat the spread of the virus.
Restaurants were temporarily closed to indoor dining in March and reopened briefly in May, with limited capacity, and shut down again in June.
Oly Ortiz, owner of the La Fonda Restaurant on East Pine Street, struggled at the outset of the pandemic and kept doors shut until late April.
“It’s been hard, but we have a loyal following and we managed to put together some outdoor dining once the Governor said it was okay,” Ortiz said.
She welcomed the opportunity to open indoor dining this week with limited capacity. “We managed to keep our staff working and we are keeping our fingers crossed the virus cases stay down,” Ortiz told the Headlight.
Local DJ George Ortiz helped and provided his Hi-Tech Entertainment services on Friday with music and dancing at the outdoor facility. “Oly has been good to the community and this is my way of paying it forward,” Ortiz said. His services came free on Friday. He coaches a traveling youth softball team and said that Oly has been a supporter of his girls over the years.
“It is an uncertain future,” said Marie Bennett of Marie’s Italian Grill. “We are fortunate to have a patio area to use during the indoor shutdown and our loyal customers have been extremely supportive during this time.”
Marie has made ends meet by offering daily specials for patio dining and curbside pick-up service. “We have always had delivery service and our customers know that,” she said. The restaurant’s prime rib dinners on Saturday’s and the Sunday buffet are signature features of the restaurant that has been in Marie’s family for over 18 years.
At the outset of the state health restrictions Marie said revenues at the restaurant were down 39 percent. “We had to be creative and think outside the box. We had to fight for our business with passion, and that’s what my staff did all along. They stuck with us and I am grateful for our employees.”
Davie Mosier at the Cactus Café specializes in smoked meats and Mexican Cuisine. During the outbreak of the pandemic in Luna County Mosier and his staff began pick-up and delivery with a perk. “We knew the public needed personal hygiene items to make it through the panic buying of this pandemic. We offered free rolls of toilet paper with each order,” Mosier told the Headlight.
Weekly specials at the Cactus are geared toward feeding families. Mosier offers complete meals for four at $30. That comes out to $7.25 per family member.
Benji Cano of Benji’s Mexican Restaurant on Deming’s west side is housed in the old Sonic Drive Inn property. Benji was able to utilize the island space for the outdoor drive-up stalls to open for patio dining. “We have limited capacity indoors to begin with and the outdoor dining has really helped,” Benji’s son, Fernando Cano told the Headlight. “We will consider keeping the outdoor area in case we are asked to shut down the indoor dining again.”
Si Senor Restaurant has been around for the past 29 years with a firm clientele and dedicated staff. Owner Margarita T. Granillo said when the shutdown in March limited the sales to takeout orders, business was slow. “I truly believe once the stimulus checks began to roll in, it served its’ purpose,” she said. “Our take-out orders began to increase.”
The restaurant kept staff employed and the reopening to indoor dining in late April brought more business.
“During the second shutdown I had to make some serious decisions,” Margarita said. “The stimulus checks were gone, and the added unemployment checks were cut down. Our customers stayed with us and the stories they told made me cry daily. I truly believe their prayers helped.”
Si Senior is back to indoor dining at a limited capacity and the return diners are back.
Bill Armendariz can be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2606) or [email protected]