As we are all keenly aware, the shutdown of the country during the Covid-19 pandemic’s first surge meant more to people than just staying at home for a few weeks. For some, it meant having to say goodbye to loved ones over a phone instead of face to face, while others suffered depression from isolation and a lack of support. Teachers became tech gurus while parents became at-home workers and homeschoolers. Some people became homeless while others discovered their true passions. Houses got remodeled with an explosion of the DIY philosophy, and health care workers saw how one virus can overtake the world. Nearly every industry in the economy took a hit because of Covid-19. And, now that Covid continues to rage on, one that suffered a particularly long lasting and devastating blow was the restaurant industry.
“The restaurant industry - first to shut down, last to recover” is the headline for a National Restaurant Association video published January 4, 2022. This is very true for many restaurants throughout the country. It is now estimated that since March 2019, Over 110,000 restaurants and bars have closed either temporarily or permanently due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Restaurants now have 11.3 million jobs, or about 1 million fewer than they had in February 2020—before the pandemic struck and led to widespread closures of dine-in service.” In addition to the deficit of 1 million jobs, the revenue lost by restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic is a staggering $240 billion and counting.
Large, franchise businesses struggled to keep employees on payroll with reduced revenue while spending significant amounts of money to incorporate safety guidelines regulated by their states, but small, mom-and-pop, local restaurants remain as the number one victim within the foodservice industry to suffer from Covid-19 closures. According to one survey, 47% of restaurants affected by the pandemic closures claimed that switching to an online platform for ordering and delivering were their biggest hurdles, which led to a major deficit in overall revenue. This was particularly challenging for small, family, and locally owned businesses who struggled to transition their business process and technology to handle to-go orders more efficiently.
However, one niche of the foodservice industry that was not particularly well suited for the curbside or delivery food space was fine dining establishments. During the roughest points of the pandemic, fine dining restaurants struggled with whether to stay open at all, or to attempt to make their decadent meals desirable for takeout, or a combination of both. Eating a steak out of a white takeout box is not nearly as appealing as having it served to you in a candlelit room surrounded by family or friends. If given the choice, would customers choose a quick-meal “to-go” option rather than an elegant meal by a chef trying to “challenge your tastebuds”. The whole point of fine dining is to experience food in a way that seems unreachable to the everyday meal. There is something special about dressing up and sitting down for a meal that was prepared with details the average restaurant might not include. Fine dining chefs, managers, servers, and other staff members take pride in their abilities to serve a meal that is special; delicious, and different from what you make at home. After all, when it comes to a celebration, isn’t it better to go all out? Even during a pandemic? One New Mexico restaurant believed that it was.
In the high desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, sits a hidden gem of gourmet food establishments. Vernon’s Speakeasy is a locally owned and operated one-of-a-kind speakeasy steakhouse that offers the quintessential romantic, fine dining experience. Nestled in the Village of Los Ranchos on 4th Street, Vernon’s will take you back to the thrilling times of the Prohibition Era. Complete with a gangster bouncer that you can only get through with a password and beautifully performed live music, Vernon’s is the perfect place for a special celebration.
Vernon’s is one of the only fine dining restaurants in all of New Mexico that did not close during the roller coaster of strict Covid mandates with various forms of indoor/outdoor only, and number of guests and percentage of tables allowed. This is largely in part due to the ultimate belief that success was the only option, failure was not. We fought hard to keep our workers employed, and our customers happy as we knew ultimately our survival depended on it. The stellar Vernon’s staff’s efforts to make Vernon’s a safe and enjoyable experience for all our customers kept the reservations full. To keep up with New Mexico Covid restrictions, Vernon’s leaned into the charm of Albuquerque. Throughout the pandemic, and even during the cold winter months when restaurants were only allowed to seat people outside, Vernon’s created outdoor dining spaces on our adobe patio and under our covered portal bathed in intimate light and sat every table with a patio heater and more creating an oasis of warmth allowing our guests to still enjoy all the best aspects of dining out. Once allowed inside again, tables were separated with thick velvety curtains and spaced in a way to enhance not only the guest’s safety but also adding to the privacy and intimacy of the dining experience.
Despite the pandemic, we have found a way to thrive that reflects the resiliency of our brand and its following in New Mexico. Since then, the speakeasy has stayed on top of changing restrictions and honored feedback from customers that have made the experience at Vernon’s feel romantic, exciting, and safe. We at Vernon’s Speakeasy feel the craving Albuquerque residents and visitors still have for a high-quality fine dining experience. We ended 2021 with the highest grossing revenue year in the history of the restaurant despite every Covid challenge that was thrown our way. So, as you consider your next celebration, make the choice to go local and enjoy one of the most romantic, delicious, exciting, and certainly resilient fine dining establishments in the country. Choose Vernon’s Speakeasy.