By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Quay improves to green


March 3, 2021

File photo

Odeon Theatre owners Robert Lopez and Christy Dominguez pose in front of the facility's big screen in May 2020. The state's public health order last week allows many New Mexico movie theaters to reopen to limited capacity, but Dominguez said she would not be comfortable reopening the Tucumcari venue for several more months.

Quay County improved from the yellow to green zone in COVID-19 assessments last week, and the governor's office also announced a loosening of health regulations that allow many movie theaters across the state to reopen.

Don't expect to see the Odeon Theatre - Quay County's only surviving movie venue - to open for at least a few more months, however. The Odeon has been closed since March 15, 2020, because of the pandemic.

Christy Dominguez, general manager and co-owner of the Odeon with husband Robert Lopez, said Thursday she isn't comfortable with reopening at this time. The new public health order allows counties in the green zone such as Quay to reopen indoor theaters at 25% capacity.

"We feel it's a bit early in the game," she wrote in a text message to the Quay County Sun. "More vaccines are needed, and upgrades to the theater to manage sanitation requirements are a must. Additionally, sanitation training will also be necessary for our staff. ... We are being very conservative at this point."

Dominguez said she hoped to soon apply for grants for shuttered venues through the Small Business Administration to help fund those efforts. The Odeon has received a variety of federal, state and local grants throughout the pandemic.

Dominguez hesitated to project a possible reopening date for the theater but guessed "maybe midsummer."

Dominguez and Lopez said in May they had hoped to reopen by in late July with Disney's remake of "Mulan." But the rollout of the film - along with many others - was canceled. "Mulan" and many other films premiered instead on subscription streaming services during the fall and winter.

Since its closing, the Odeon has undergone plumbing and projector upgrades and other improvements. The theater was built in 1935. Two blocks of Second Street, including one that runs in front of the theater, also were reconstructed and will reopen soon.

Bars may reopen

If Quay County lands in the green zone again during the next COVID-19 risk assessment March 10, it would be placed in the turquoise zone that would allow the reopening of bars at 33% of indoor capacity and the additional loosening of other restrictions.

All taverns in New Mexico have been closed since March because of the pandemic, except for limited outdoor service.

Mike Awais, manager of the full-service bar at the Tristar Inn Xpress motel in Tucumcari, stated in an email Friday he definitely would reopen it "when the conditions are right."

Slick Knapp, commander of the VFW Post 2528 in Tucumcari, also said the post's bar would reopen if it gets the green light March 10.

"We're looking to reopen pretty quick," he said Saturday. "We're preparing for it, that's for sure."

Awais also said he is mulling opening the motel's restaurant so it could serve drinks. The Tristar doesn't have an outdoor patio.

"We are considering all options for now," he stated.

State parks open

The governor's office also announced last week that state parks - including Ute Lake in Logan and Conchas northwest of Tucumcari - would be open to day use for all visitors.

Citing high coronavirus numbers in the neighboring states of Arizona and Texas, the governor's office closed state parks to out-of-state visitors last spring.

Camping at state parks opened to all visitors with reservations, effective Saturday.

Masks remain mandatory at state parks except when eating, drinking or swimming. Limitations on group sizes also remain in effect. Group shelters still are off-limits.

Revised order

The state's modified public health order last week allowed more day-to-day activities and commercial operations such as bars, recreational facilities and entertainment venues, reflecting growing confidence the pandemic is being brought under control.

The new turquoise risk level raises occupancy limits to 75% for most businesses. It also allows the reopening of large entertainment venues at 33% of maximum capacity for any indoor or enclosed space or 75% for outdoor spaces, recreational facilities at 50% of capacity of any indoors area and 75% of any outdoor space, and bars and clubs at 33% of capacity of any indoor space or 75% outdoors.

The expansion of public access to recreational facilities, however, does not affect high-school or middle-school sports events scheduled this month. Spectators are not allowed at those events for now.

Quay County reported 5.1 daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 2.87% during assessment period from Feb. 9 to Feb. 22. Both numbers were well under the benchmarks of 8 daily cases per 100,000 and a 5% positivity rate and thus landed the county into the green zone.

Neighboring Harding and Union counties landed in the coveted turquoise zone, and De Baca County went into the green zone for the first time.

All but four of New Mexico's 33 counties landed in the yellow, green or turquoise zones last week. Only McKinley, Otero, Eddy and Dona Ana counties stayed in the red zone.

Quay's new rules

These are Quay County's new health regulations in the green zone:

• Essential businesses (non-retail): No capacity restrictions but operations must be limited to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions;

• Essential retail spaces: 50% of maximum capacity (indoor and outdoor);

• Food and drink establishments (if NM Safe Certified): 50% of capacity for indoor dining; 75% of capacity for outdoor dining;

• Close-contact businesses: 50% of capacity (indoor and outdoor);

• Large entertainment venues: 25% of capacity for any indoor/enclosed space on premises; 50% of any outdoor space on premises;

• Recreational facilities: 25% of capacity of any indoor/enclosed space on the premises; 50% of any outdoor space on the premises;

• Bars and clubs: 25% of capacity of any outdoor space on premises, where applicable; indoors not permitted;

• All other businesses: 50% of capacity (indoor and outdoor);

• Churches: May hold religious services, indoors or outdoors, or provide services through audiovisual means but may not exceed 50% of capacity of any enclosed space on the premises;

• Places of lodging: 75% of occupancy for those that have completed NM Safe Certified training; 40% of occupancy for all others; 10 guests maximum for vacation rentals;

• Mass gatherings limit: 20 persons, 120 vehicles.


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