By Sayre Key-Towne / NM News Port
With New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases declining and the state now permitting restaurants to operate at 25% capacity, local food and entertainment venues are beginning to see daylight for the first time in months.
Danny Chavez is the owner and operator of Revel — a large, warehouse style club that houses multiple restaurants and entertainment spaces. Chavez has been in the business for nearly 40 years, starting his first company, NRG (pronounced “energy”) in 1984. Over the years, Chavez has grown from 4 employees in one location to over a thousand stretched across 55 venues in five states — Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.
Chavez had no sooner just opened Revel in late February when the state ordered all public venues to close in mid-March, stopping business dead in its tracks.
“We had employed roughly 150 people for the soft opening and we couldn’t even give them two paychecks before letting them go,” Chavez said.
Chavez was also in the process of relocating to Revel the piano bar he started in 2016. “Uptown Funk,” a local piano bar, was the first of several entertainment businesses to go into Revel. Chavez said a concert space was supposed to open in Revel in early July.
After months of limited activity, Chavez says he is now confident about the future of Revel following Grisham’s late August announcement that venues like his could open again, even if only at 25% capacity.
Chavez is now turning to his regional manager, GQ Sanchez — or just GQ, as he’s known — to begin ramping up and staffing Revel operations again.
“All businesses run their own inventory, employment and individual payroll,” GQ explained about the many vendors housed at Revel. “We are in charge of security and keeping the floor safe for everyone.”
The many restaurants in Revel’s food court area include Pizza 9, Perico’s, Rude Boy Cookies, and other fast food and coffee venues.
Across from the food court there is a new and improved version of Uptown Funk, complete with a performance stage.
Aaron Garcia, security guard, has been providing security at Revel since it first opened, when it was poised to become an instant hit.
“The line was stretched around the entire building, man,” Garcia said. “Wrist-banding and patting-down everyone took a very long time.”
That was then.
“Now, there is less of a need for security,” Garcia said.
Garcia, like Chavez, sees greenure pastures ahead, envisioning the day when the concert venue can sell out all four thousand seats.
“Let’s say COVID-19 just magically went away, say, tomorrow. We would have the most popular place in all the state. Maybe even in all of the four corners,” Garcia said.
After having only operated fully for barely a month, Revel now hopes it can rehire most of its original staff as the venue gradually expands its operations again.
According to Chavez, he anticipates expanding capacity from 25% to 50%, and maybe 75% by 2021.
“MLG [Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham] has been very safe about everything, and I respect that,” Chavez said. “Though as a business owner, I’d like to see this place flourish.”
Governor Lujan Grisham set the 25% limit in an August 28 public health order and will revisit the limit this month. The decision will be based on the state’s COVID growth rates, which have been steadily improving since July.
Sayre Key-Towne is a journalism student and reporter for New Mexico News Port. He can be reached on Twitter @townekey.