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Launching Restaurant In Pandemic Brings Extra Challenges

The pandemic has been disastrous for many small business owners, but especially for those who opened in the middle of public health orders and lockdowns. Diego Diaz and his family opened Tio David’s Peruvian Flavor last May in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill. But because they didn’t open before February 2020, they were not eligible for any of the COVID-related federal loans or grants for businesses. He has started a crowdfunding campaign for the restaurant.

DIAZ: We received the key for our new building, February 1, and right after that is exactly when lockdown started. So we just did our best to get the restaurant open. But we had to delay it up until May, you know, we're just working and hoping that we can ride this out all the way until everything starts going back to normal. We're hoping that because of the vaccines, hopefully here in a couple of months, I believe some people are going to start going back out. And even if it's not dining in, you know, even just walking outside gets more people out there and gets the economy going really well.

KUNM: We've seen over the year, I mean, complete shutdown. And then things got better. And restaurants could open again for partial dining indoors and then shut down again. And now you can dine outside. But you guys don't have any outside seating. So how have you navigated all of this?

DIAZ: Exactly, yeah, it's a struggle that we have to kind of just play it by ear, we have limited seating on the outside is really like a couple of tables that we have room for, you know, because we're in the middle of Central and we don't have a large patio area that's reserved to our building specifically. And so working with the city has been really great, actually, they were able to provide some funding so that we were able to, you know, pay staff, get some umbrellas going for the outdoors. But it's still difficult due to the fact that it's really cold, you know, it's winter. Even though we have gotten a little bit of support from the city, it really is the only support that we've been able to get. Since we started during the pandemic, it's been more difficult even getting aid from the federal government, state government or any government period, you have to have business recorded before February 1, and we didn't open our doors until the last day of May. So that right there automatically does not qualify us for all the federal aid and all the federal assistance, you know, as great as it sounds. It's not really for the small business that just opened. It would be nice if there was some sort of consideration from local, state government or even federal government for those businesses, right, because we're not the only ones that opened up in 2020. And we all pay taxes. But sometimes the legislators don't have that input really.

KUNM: Talk a little about why you wanted to start the restaurant.

DIAZ: We're immigrants from Peru. We came here back in 2001. And my dad has always been the chef of the family he's David – Tio David. He has been cooking for all of our family and friends that we have created here. People came to know my dad and his cooking. Some Peruvian immigrants that were here, some people from Latin America also, you know. In South America, they all love Peruvian food. So they instantly got transported back to their home countries where they come from when they taste our food. And that's one of the main reasons why we decided to open the restaurant. You could say that in a way that my dad has been cooking for the community for already almost 20 years.

KUNM: Why did you want to bring Peruvian food to a bigger audience in Albuquerque? What is so special about it?

DIAZ: Peruvian food is actually world-renowned. A lot of people travel to Peru just because of the food. It's one of the food capitals of the world. One of the things that makes it so attractive is the fact that we have very different climates. We have the coast. So we have a lot of seafood. And then you get the Andes. So we have a lot of different cultures that present their culinary expertise. And there's just this magical blend of it. And right now we're mainly focused on Lima, which is where we're from. So we want to bring that part of our culture, you know, here in Albuquerque, especially because we see Albuquerque as a growing city. There's a lot of people that are really foodies here in Albuquerque.

KUNM: And has your dad, this is his chance to show off his cooking for the wider community after all those years. Has he rolling with the punches?

DIAZ: Well, yeah, you know, he's taking it well. He understands the reality of things. And at the end of the day, we've waited this long, and we're just going to continue, we're going to keep riding it.


A longer version of this conversation appeared on our show No More Normal, which airs Sundays at 11 a.m.

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.
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