A caravan of 11 cars carrying about 16 area residents made its way from Roswell to Carlsbad Saturday morning to show support for open businesses and for a Carlsbad restaurant that has had its food service license pulled by the state for allegedly violating public health orders.
The Road Trip Reopen Rally was organized by the nonpartisan Concerned Citizens for New Mexico, which held a downtown Main Street rally in Roswell on April 18 and a road rally through Roswell May 2 after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials enacted public health orders that closed or significantly restricted the operations of what were characterized as “non-essential” businesses.
Signs and lettering on vehicles carried such messages as “Freedom Over Fear,” “Open Businesses. Stop the Nonsense,” and “In New Mexico, the Governor is the Most Dangerous Virus,” and the people participating said that they think Lujan Grisham and her administration are picking winners and losers through their policies and causing harm to the state and individuals.
“I believe in people over politics. I don’t believe we should be making businesses and restaurants shut down,” said Barbara Gomez, expressing a sentiment others also voiced. “I trust that they can do as good a job of protecting people as Walmart.”
The event was meant to show support especially for Pizza Inn of Carlsbad, which is why the group planned to end its rally at the West Pierce Street restaurant.
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The owner has two restaurants in Carlsbad and one in Hobbs. The New Mexico Environment Department confirmed that it has pulled the food service licenses for both Carlsbad locations. According to news articles, that occurred because the owner allowed indoor dining after the state reinstated the indoor service ban July 15.
Photos of indoor patrons at the Hobbs Pizza Inn were shown during a July 23 press conference held by Lujan Grisham. She said the patrons and owners were engaging in risky behaviors that could lead to deaths. She said people needed to understand that they were “creating enforcement issues that we take seriously.”
Stacy Wolkwitz, one of the organizers of the “peaceful protest road rally,” said she felt the Pizza Inn owners had provided a detailed plan for safe operations and that she considered the governor’s rebuke to “smack of retribution and intimidation.” She also said she found it particularly upsetting that a state official encouraged employees who feel unsafe at their workplaces to stay home and file for unemployment.
“We support the struggle, during this difficult time, of small business owners, as their families literally depend on that income to survive,” she said.