State Shuts Doors and Windows on Los Alamos Eateries

New Mexico Environment Department has ordered the large windows lining the front of the Dixie Girl Restaurant to be closed permanently. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
 
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

Gone are the days of dining in fresh air from open windows and doors at Los Alamos restaurants.

The New Mexico Environment Department issued warnings to the Pajarito Brewpub and Grill and the Dixie Girl Restaurant in downtown Los Alamos for having open windows while serving diners.

“The inspector tapped me on the shoulder at noon Wednesday and held his badge in my face. The restaurant was packed with our lunch crowd and he told me he could issue me a citation but would give me a warning instead,” Brewpub co-owner Patrick Mockler-Wood told the Los Alamos Daily Post. “He said I had to keep the garage door between the dining room and our outside eating area closed from now on.”

Mockler-Wood and his three partners opened the Pajarito Brewpub in November 2012 at 614 Trinity Dr. He explained that they submitted their restaurant drawings and plans to NMED for approval. He said an inspector physically visited the eatery and even walked out through the garage door and stood in the outside eating area before granting approval. 

“If they approved our plans eight months ago, than why when the Los Alamos population is finally getting a chance to enjoy our open air dining are they shunning it,” Mockler-Wood said. “This is just one more thing that’s hurting small businesses – not just in Los Alamos but across the state. The open air concept is popular in restaurants throughout New Mexico, in Colorado and many other states … I understand about rodents and insects and we take a lot of care to avoid that type of problem, so to now deny us the ability to open our garage door for our diners just isn’t fair.”

Pajarito Brewpub outdoor dining. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

With a quick search on the Internet, Mockler-Wood said he found more than a dozen popular restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque with an open air dining concept similar to his.

“The Dixie Girl Restaurant and its predecessor Central Avenue Grill have been operating with four garage doors open in nice weather for 15 years,” Mockler-Wood said. “It makes no sense to tell us both that we can’t open our garage doors anymore.”

Denise Lane opened the Dixie Girl Restaurant in the former Central Avenue Grill space at 1789 Central Ave., in 2012. She confirmed with the Los Alamos Daily Post this morning that the inspector was at her eatery about two weeks ago. He told her she needed to keep her overhead doors closed, she said.

“The inspector is a really nice guy and this is his opinion, which I don’t happen to agree with,” Lane said. “Our customers love the open windows and I am working on a solution that I hope he will accept because we really do want to provide the open air dining concept for our customers.”

The impetus behind the statewide law is “to protect against the entry of animals, birds, insects and rodents into eating establishments.”

According to New Mexico Regulations and Statutes, from which the department derives its authority to regulate food service and processing (revised Jan. 1, 2010), 7.6.2.10 E. “Doors And Windows” states in part: All openings to the outer air shall be effectively protected against the entrance of animals, birds, insects and rodents. Proposed protective measures shall be submitted in writing to the Health Authority for approval.

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