Since March, businesses have experienced varying levels of restrictions regarding whether or not they would be allowed to continue operating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tomé Art Gallery, much like other businesses, had to close earlier this year to abide by state mandate. Now, it is open by appointment only.

Jan Pacifico, a manager and resident artist of the gallery, said once the gallery can open back up full scale, they will be requiring patrons to wear masks and gloves, both of which they will be providing.

“People like to touch the artwork, and it’s difficult to clean all of it because there’s so much of it,” Pacifico said.

The gallery recently received a grant from Facebook and started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the practical costs of keeping the gallery from closing permanently. There is no payroll, and the artists provide all the labor for the co-op.

“Most of us are older, with pre-existing conditions that make us high-risk, so we’re kind of hesitant about opening up in general,” Pacifico said.

The gallery is currently hosting its online miniature show through Etsy, the link is listed on the Tomé Art Gallery website. To learn more, call the gallery at 565-0556.

Over at Mitchell Theatres Starlight Cinema in Los Lunas, the staff has switched gears to selling curb-side popcorn and Icees until the theater can open its doors again.

Manager Gary Jacobson said they drew inspiration from other movie theaters who were doing something similar, but he wanted to err on the side of caution and wait until people were allowed to go inside restaurants to order their food.

“Being shut down during the summer, which is supposed to be our busiest time of the entire year, it’s definitely had a dramatic impact on us,” Jacobson said. “We’re hoping to see the other side of this but nobody knows when that’s going to be.”

Cars can pull into the parking lot near the entrance of the theater, where a staff member will come up to the passenger’s window and take their order and payment. Curb-side pickup events occur on certain days, usually Saturdays or Sundays, every other weekend.

Jacobson is pleasantly surprised by the community support they’ve been receiving.

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The local movie theater has switched to sell concession stand favorites — popcorn and Icees — until it can reopen.

“We had no idea what to expect. Other theaters have had mixed results. When we posted about it on social media, we got a lot of engagements and shares on the posts,” Jacobson said. “We’ve had so many customers saying, ‘We’re here to support you.’ It’s such a heartwarming thing to see.”

For the foreseeable future, the theater will have some sort of event every other weekend like it has been up to this point.

Beginning Sept. 12, the theater will open up its lobby to allow customers come inside to purchase concessions. Curb-side popcorn pickup will still be offered for those who prefer not to go inside the building.

The Belen High School Natatorium had to adapt to the new circumstances as well. In the middle of the June, the facility was allowed to open its indoor pool but for reservations and lap swimming only. People are required to wear masks until they get into the pool and must put it back once they exit the pool.

Barbara Rodriguez, aquatics coordinator for the facility, said there are certain times during the day they close for cleaning.

“We open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., then we clean for an hour, and then we’re open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.,” Rodriguez said. “We clean again, and then 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and clean again.”

She said they weren’t able to do their lifeguard training classes this summer, which normally brings in new lifeguards, so it limited their options even more.

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Belen High School natatorium in the summer of 2017.

“It’s a different summer for us. Because our high school students aren’t on campus, we lose our high school lifeguards for our 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. time slot,” Rodriguez said. “We have some college kids that are on duty in the morning slot, so now we’re open Tuesday through Friday in the morning and in the afternoon 4 p.m. through 6 p.m.”

The BHS natatorium is able to resume lifeguard training now, but only two participants at a time. Training lasts about month before they get certified, but now a lot of the learning is done online.

“We haven’t started them yet; we’re just waiting until things get a little better,” she said. “We would hate to start something before kids are back on campus. We just don’t want to be part of the problem. We just have to learn to adapt. That’s what education is, just learning to adapt,”

For more information or to reserve a time, visit their website at belen-eagles-natatorium.business.site or call 966-1338.

Staff Writer

Anna Padilla is a native of Los Lunas, and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. She began her journalism career with the VCNB in May 2019. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.

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