El Patio Working Through COVID 19

Story by Mark Graven

The El Patio Restaurant, located at 142 Harvard Drive,SE between the CNM and UNM campuses normally gets a lot of student clientele, but not during these corona virus times, according to Steven Candelaria, the restaurant manager.

“We normally get quite a few (students), but now we hardly get any,” said Candelaria, 48, who has been working at El Patio for nine years.

The result is logical, as there are hardly any students on either campus, he noted.

El Patio has been a mainstay in the university community for over 4 decades, and is owned by David Sandoval, according to Candelaria.

Now, with the government restrictions in place, the restaurant is only open for takeout and curbside pickup, which has caused a 70 percent drop-off, both in traffic and revenues, Candelaria said.

The restaurant typically employs a staff of 15 to 20, but that has been cut down to five.

Candelaria said he finds himself running outside, (through El Patio’s blue picket fence), to make a curbside hand-off, which he does not mind.

Restaurant employees are paying attention to details for the benefit of the health and safety of the customers, based on information the media has provided, Candelaria said.

The city did not send out any written guidelines, although some from the Department of Health did call, Candelaria said, adding that city inspectors seem to be following their regular schedules of coming by every two to three months.

All restaurant employees wear masks and gloves throughout their shifts, Candelaria said.

When folks come in for take-out, they are advised to keep a six-foot spacing, if they haven’t picked up on the procedure, and the counter is wiped down with disinfectant after each customer leaves, he said.

A lot of incoming customers are wearing masks, he said.

People are ordering the same items from the menu, but they are skipping dessert, according to Candelaria, adding that the ever popular biscochitos and the flan “are out.”

“People are tightening their belts, and budgeting their money, I guess,” said Candelaria. “They want to get as much bang for their buck as they can.”

Candelaria said that he is thinking the restaurant and others like it, will start getting up to speed gradually in June, with a 20 to 30 percent occupancy limitation.

Candelaria said that he personally was laid off from a second restaurant job so that he just goes home after work, where he is likely to find his son playing video games.

One thing is still the same during these challenging times, according to Candelaria: “Green chili is still more popular than red.”

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