Restaurants and other local businesses have been put in an impossible situation in El Paso, where they’re receiving closure orders and court summonses under a local order that our state law and the Attorney General declare to be invalid. If they stay open, they’re likely to receive costly fines, but if they close and the courts rule against the county, they won’t receive any reparations for additional business losses and spoiled supplies.
“This political situation has caused so much confusion for our employees and guests,” said Jose Heras, Vice President of El Taco Tote and President of the El Paso Chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association. “Confusion is causing fear, and fear is hurting sales, and that harms everyone.”
“It feels like the county is using us as pawns, putting the responsibility of personal behavior on local businesses,” said Andres Orozco, co-owner of Great American Steakhouse. “We want to keep our guests safe, our staff employed, the vendors we work with still open. This confusion causes our employees to wonder if they will have a job tomorrow. Why treat us differently than retail? They have the ability to do curbside too.”
To prevent this injustice and additional uncertainty, we call upon the courts to quickly issue a restraining order and injunction while the case challenging Judge Samaniego’s order is decided. And until we have a final judgment from the courts, we urge El Paso County to stop punishing restaurants and other local businesses that have been fighting for eight months to remain in business, retain their employees, and support the food supply chain—all while going above and beyond to keep people safe. We understand the pandemic fatigue and frustration people are feeling, but closing restaurants will only force them into unregulated spaces like in-home gatherings, which could likely increase the spread of COVID-19.
“El Paso Strong has fallen apart - we are as divided as we could be, and it’s heartbreaking,” said Leo Duran, Owner of L&J Café. “My family and I are absolutely sensitive to what’s going on in our community with the increased hospitalization rates. But we know, truly know, that our restaurants are the safest for people to visit because of the rigid sanitation and distancing efforts we have in place. I would never open up my business to cause harm to my staff, customers, or my community.”
“It’s a lose-lose situation for us and all of the other local businesses that have been put in this situation,” said Vanessa Duran, Co-Owner and General Manager of L&J Café. “For now we are staying open to sustain our family business, and we will continue to follow all of the state’s safety protocols like requiring masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitation. We truly wish it were different, but we’re making the best decisions we can for our family, our employees, and the community that depends on us.”