On Saturday, scores of customers came to Backstreet Grill in Albuquerque’s Old Town to support it as it refused to close down following Yelp reviews and a KRQE 13 report alleging that employees were not wearing masks while working outside.
The massive support for Backstreet Grill came as embattled Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State Police delivered a cease and desist order to the business, which was supposed to shut it down. But the restaurant owner refused to stay shuttered.
Along with multiple State Police officers came Lujan Grisham’s well-paid Environment Department Secretary James Kenney, who spoke with some supporters of Backstreet Grill, including Audrey Trujillo, a conservative activist in New Mexico. Kenny said, “We oversee the OSHA program. Just to make sure the employees are safe. And the lack of employees wearing masks as they’re performing their duties puts them at risk.”
Another health official, Christopher Hutchinson of the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, was short with Trujillo and others, refusing to give them his name despite being present in an official capacity and merely telling them he was there because of a “lack of compliance” from the business.
“When is this going to end? When are you going to let these people run their businesses?” asked Trujillo to Kenney. “New Mexico is staying in this because they’re getting money. They are getting federal money,” she added.
“Look, I appreciate the conversation we’re having…. We’re so close. We’re getting very close to being over that edge” of being out of the pandemic, Kenney said. He did not elaborate on when or how that would happen. Shortly afterward, Kenney, Hutchinson, and the Stae Police officers left.
Chris, the owner of the business, said, “We were looking at a potential arrest. We were asked to shut it down even though it’s unconstitutional. The judge has issued a temporary order to shut us down pending even talking to her, which is very unacceptable considering the damage that would do to an already damaged business. On top of that, I just never saw that this would be something that would be an outcome.”
He added, “I tried to be polite and professional with the sergeant I realized was in command. He was waiting for orders. He was just following orders. They let him use his own decision-making in the field and he said that upon my request to leave, that he would honor that request and he would let us continue doing business.”
When asked if the massive public turnout to support the grill helped, he said, “Absolutely. Everything helps. Everything matters. Everything helps, and the support that I’ve gotten today is something I never even dreamed of. I feel like I’ve been fighting this fight alone for the longest time. And finally, now, I’m seeing the people come out and step up to the plate and actually stand on-scene and make their presence known.