New Mexico GOP pushes back against Michelle Lujan Grisham business restrictions

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The Republican Party urged New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday to use “common sense” and allow certain nonessential small businesses to reopen with some requirements for social distancing.

Speaking on a virtual press conference with small business owners, GOP Chair Steve Pearce said new restrictions are unfaily hurting small “mom and pop” shops while allowing big box stores like Walmart to continue operating.

The first-term Democratic governor and state health officials have suspended a variety of nonessential businesses through at least April 30 to slow the spread of the coronavirus and ensure health care facilities are not overwhelmed by a surge of patients.

Pearce said the precautions are too drastic and put small businesses in jeopardy of financial ruin. “Somewhere the Main Street owners of mom and pop stores in New Mexico need to be spoke for,” Pearce said.

Lujan Grisham said she is working on a plan to re-open the state economy while putting the highest priority on public health and safety.

A list of essential businesses that can remain open includes industries that attend to health care, emergency services, law enforcement, food supplies, energy, construction, internet service, data centers, some manufacturing, and care for the indigent, elderly and young children whose parents work.

Recent revisions to the restrictions placed new limits on the operation of liquor stores and storefront loan businesses.

Shelly Quartieri, owner of the Colfax Tavern & Diner in Maxwell, said she understood restrictions were needed, but felt restrictions should be imposed statewide in the same way.

“”Social distancing should be based on population and cases,” said Quartieri, who recently was forced to lay off her husband. “It’s not a cookie-cutter world.”

Quartieri and other small business owners pressed Lujan Grisham to allow them to reopen “with fair restrictions.”

The National Rifle Association and allied businesses have sued the state, alleging it infringed on 2nd Amendment rights by closing down gun shops and shooting ranges as nonessential businesses. Firearms are still sold at some feed and hardware stores.

Jessica Carothers, 43, who owns three beauty salons in Albuquerque and supports Lujan Grisham’s measures, said she understands that small businesses want to reopen and the effects the closures are having on revenue.

“Nobody wants to reopen more than I do,” Carothers said. “But I can’t in good conscience put my clients and employees at risk right now.”

New Mexico has reported more than 1,240 coronavirus cases with 26 deaths. It is mainly spread through coughs and sneezes. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.


Contreras reported Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

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