As cases of the novel coronavirus reach double digits in Bernalillo County, local business owners are grappling with a decrease in sales.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department is offering aid for businesses amidst the health crisis, such as emergency loans and credit to local business owners who are affected by COVID-19.

Effective March 16, the Governor's office issued a mandate requiring restaurants to temporarily limit patronage to half of their maximum occupancy. Tables and booths can't sit more than six people and must be six feet away from the nearest table, according to the City of Albuquerque.



"It's not due to any reason — it's only due to the virus," Rojesh Maharaan, the owner of Mayaza Cafe, said. "I don't think it's anyone's fault. I think I will get more customers after it's done."

Naruto, a local restaurant in the University of New Mexico area specializing in Hakata-style ramen noodles, has had to adjust its business during the pandemic.

"I'm not sure as of right now," Naruto waiter Khuong Nguyen said. "The only thing I know of is the New Mexico Department of Health just issued their restrictions, so we're just trying to follow their precautions."

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller encouraged residents to continue supporting local businesses in ways that will not contradict the precautions issued to flatten the disease curve.

"We also encourage Burqueños to purchase gift cards today to use later, order takeout or delivery from local restaurants, source many of your groceries from local vendors and make plans to support local businesses when we get through this," Keller said in a press release on Monday.

These recommendations come while some Asian-owned businesses, such as the Asian Noodle Bar in downtown Albuquerque, have faced discrimination related to COVID-19. On Twitter, KOB 4 reporter Joy Wang tweeted photos of the noodle bar's wall defaced with coronavirus-specific vandalism.

Keller has urged Albuquerque residents to report cases of xenophobia and discrimination to the City of Albuquerque's Office of Civil Rights.

Restaurants aren't the only businesses affected by the spread of the disease.

Stay Gold Tattoo, a tattoo shop near UNM, is temporarily closed to the public but is still taking call-ahead appointments.

"It hasn't been an issue yet. I imagine it will to some degree," Matthew Pippin, an employee at Stay Gold Tattoo, said. "We are only doing appointments — we want to try to control and maintain the bodies in the shop."

Despite the concerns, Pippin said the size of the shop can work to its advantage.

"It's also that it's a small shop. We do have a lot of control in this environment. We're able to clean constantly and keep things in order, so I feel very safe here," Pippin said. "I imagine this will have some effect. I have friends in California who have closed, they've chosen to close, and I fully support them. If you're able to do that, you should."

For now, Albuquerque businesses will track updates related to COVID-19 and make adjustments as necessary.

"I guess until we're told otherwise, we're only dealing with existing clients and appointments, so we're able to be pretty tight on regulating the amount of people in the shop," Pippin said. "So until someone tells us no, we're going to keep going."

As of the publication of this article, there were 23 reported presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in the state, 14 of which are in Bernalillo County.

Lauren McDonald is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @laurmcdonald24