Luis Martinez-Obregon, one of the owners of Zocalo Mexican Kitchen & Cantina in Midtown, is responding to backlash caused by a video broadcast by WSB-TV on Tuesday that showed people apparently gathered in the restaurant’s parking lot for Cinco de Mayo. Zocalo is currently open for takeout. The dining room and patio remain closed.
Since mid-March, similar photos have circulated online of people who have supposedly gathered in front of the restaurant, either waiting for takeout or hanging around after receiving their food. Most of the people in the WSB-TV video are not wearing masks.
The CDC recommends people wear face masks in public to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, especially within enclosed spaces or when in close contact with people outside of their own household. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is also urging people to wear masks and to continue maintaining six feet of distance from others while in public.
WATCH: This is Cinco de Mayo in Midtown Atlanta. What do you think about this? Relaxed social distancing allows for people to head out. It allows restaurants to re-open with limitations. It allows people to get back to work, which is what we need as a society. But we only counted about three masks in this video. How much is too much? What do you think?Posted by WSB-TV on Tuesday, May 5, 2020
“Zocalo restaurant has not organized any events — “social distance parties” — as some misinformed individuals have pointed out in social media,” Martinez-Obregon tells Eater Atlanta in an email. “The problems (crowd) have been taking place only during two Sundays after 6:00 p.m.”
He did not specifically comment on the WSB-TV video.
In an Instagram post on Tuesday, April 28, the restaurant responded to backlash caused by another photo capturing crowds apparently gathered in front of the restaurant on Sunday, April 26.
View this post on Instagram
*IMPORTANT - PLEASE READ* While we are excited to be part of the city of Atlanta’s transition to re-open businesses, Zocalo will remain closed to the public. We ARE doing takeout orders, Thursday-Sunday! You can order through DoorDash, UberEats & GrubHub. We hope you can enjoy our food & margaritas from the safety of your home. Unfortunately we have been receiving negative comments about a photograph that recently surfaced showing crowds on the street outside our restaurant. This is not accurately depict our position as we have remained closed to the public and have not encouraged group congregations of any kind. We are very much of the belief that social distancing is still necessary and we take this matter very seriously. We look forward to welcoming back our guests soon- in a safe and healthy environment. -The Zocalo Team
Martinez-Obregon says the restaurant hired an off-duty police officer last week to help ask people to leave the property once they received their orders. He claims the restaurant even shut down the takeout window last Sunday once they realized people were not complying with social distancing guidelines.
“We are examining our Sunday hours to never again let this happen, including temporarily closing on Sundays, as we understand and agree with any concern from our neighborhood and the city of Atlanta,” says Martinez-Obregon.
In an interview with CNN anchor John Berman on Wednesday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was asked about recent images of crowds gathering in parks, public spaces, and for Cinco de Mayo. The mayor called the images “disappointing,” saying people didn’t seem to be “getting the message” to socially distance or to wear masks in public.
Mayor Bottoms has widely criticized Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow businesses like hair and nail salons to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-in service. At the end of April, she penned an op-ed for The Atlantic calling the relaxing of restrictions in Georgia “irresponsible” and said that it could possibly lead to unnecessary deaths in the state.
“Our hospitals may not be stretched to capacity,” the mayor wrote, “but that does not mean we should work to fill the vacant beds.”
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.