Coronavirus
Restaurant workers make some noise in Mexico City. Restaurant workers make some noise in Mexico City.

Restaurants defy closure order: ‘industry a source of jobs, not infection’

Mexico City mayor accuses some of seeking confrontation

Some restaurants in Mexico City and México state are defying the red light coronavirus restrictions currently in place in the Valley of México by reopening to in-house diners at a time when they should only be offering takeout and delivery service.

The restaurant chains Sonora Grill, Fisher’s, Toks and Potzocalli were among the establishments that reopened on Monday, the day on which the suspension of nonessential economic activities was originally slated to conclude.

(The Mexico City and México state governments announced last Friday that the suspension would remain in place for another week.)

Sonora Grill, a steakhouse chain, announced its reopening plans on social media.

“Today we open just like informal commerce [such as street food stalls] and public transit (always supersaturated) but with the big difference of always complying with strict safety and hygiene protocols to the letter of the law,” it announced on Twitter.

“Sonora Grill Group has taken the decision to OPEN. Valued guests, we cannot give up. To our leaders we say: we can’t allow ourselves to die. … Our restaurant industry is a source of employment, not infections.”

Fisher’s, a seafood restaurant chain, said on Twitter: “For us, for our families, for everyone. We’ll open … January 11 #abriromorir [open or die].”

The operations director at Potzocalli, which specializes in pozole, told the newspaper Milenio that the chain had no other option but to reopen.

“We decided to take this decision because the money has already run out; we asked for loans but they won’t give them to us anymore and we’re going into more debt. … We opened to generate a few sales and with that … pay our employees,” José Delgado said.

He said that sales have fallen 90% since the closure order took effect three weeks ago, adding that the chain is desperate and will “die” if it doesn’t reopen.

The decision of some restaurants to defy the closure order came four days after more than 500 restaurateurs in Mexico City and México state made a desperate plea to political leaders to allow them to reopen to in-house dining, saying that their businesses will perish if they are not allowed to do so.

Diners at a Sonora Grill that opened in defiance of Covid restrictions.
Diners at a Sonora Grill that opened in defiance of Covid restrictions.

The national restaurant association said it was not involved in the reopening initiative in Mexico City, asserting that restaurants organized among themselves. However, the president of Canirac acknowledged in an interview that many restaurants no longer have the appetite to comply with the prevailing restrictions.

“We’ve tried to maintain dialogue with the authorities to tell them that people are mad as hell,” Francisco Fernández said. “I can’t tell [restaurant owners] to let their businesses die.”

In response to the defiance, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that establishments not complying with the red light restrictions will be sanctioned.

“We’re not going to seek any confrontation because that’s what some of them are looking for,” she added. “There are those who want to politicize this issue [the economic shutdown]; that won’t be the case for me.”

The Mexico City government last month announced an economic support package for people affected by the shutdown, including 2,200-peso (US $110) lump sum payments to restaurant workers, but restaurant owners have denounced the fact that they have received no financial support from the authorities.

While some restaurant owners and staff were back serving in-house customers on Monday, others took to the streets of Mexico City’s historic center to demand that the city government declare the restaurant sector essential.

The disgruntled restaurateurs and employees staged a cacerolazo – a protest featuring the banging of pots and pans – during which they declared that if restaurants weren’t given the green light to reopen to in-house dining, they would be forced to close for good.

“[I want] to say to the authorities that we’re not sources of contagion, we’re sources of employment. That’s why we ask that they allow us to work,” said Mireya García, a spokeswoman for the protesting restaurateurs.

Source: Milenio (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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