|By Garrett Nasworthy, The News, Mexico
CityMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 5, 2009 - Even as Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard declared that restaurants would be able to reopen on May 6, some restaurateurs lamented the losses already incurred.
The Italian diner-pizzeria 50-friends in La Condesa, for instance, has incurred huge losses since Tuesday.
"We are really struggling here and have not seen any customers. Just look at how empty the streets are," said Josue Valenzuela, the Condesa location manager. The restaurant lost about 30,000 pesos a day, as traffic fell over 90 percent in spite of take-out services.
Even popular eateries with regular take-out service had a rough time, as walk-in traffic didn't generate anywhere near the normal profits. "Even though the bakery portion of my restaurant has remained open, I still cannot seem to attract nearly as many customers as usual," said Diego Perez Turner, the owner of Fresco by Diego, a Condesa bakery-restaurant.
Perez Turner has seen approximately 80 percent fewer customers over the past week and is predicting the slowdown in restaurant customers could last well past May 6, when restaurants will be able to open again.
Even the good news Monday came with bad news: Vague wording about the lifting of restrictions left open the possibility that restaurants licensed to serve alcohol may have to remain closed. As a result, the national restaurant group Canirac formally asked for details on what constitutes restaurant-bars which must remain closed for the time being.
Some restaurant owners were also at a loss as to whether they could open, given recent permit changes that grouped the serving of alcohol with being a restaurant-bar.
"We need clarification [on the wording] or we may have to stay closed longer," said Valenzuela of 50-friends.
Alfredo Rincon, manager of the Enanos de Tapanco cafe in the Colonia Roma, also said he was feeling little relief from the announcement.
The damage to small businesses like his may have already been done, he said. "Small businesses live a day-to-day existence," he said. "Big business can absorb the losses, or they have insurance to help them. We don't have protection like that.
"We don't even know if our employees are coming back."
-with jOnathan Clark
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