Marie Coleman: “I have not seen this many vacancies in years and I’ve been here for 30 years”

By New Mexico Sun Report

Mar 21, 2023

Old Town in Albuquerque is undergoing a slow transition as long-time businesses close making room for new stores and restaurants.

“I have not seen this many vacancies in years and I’ve been here for 30 years,” Marie Coleman, the owner of Church Street Café, told KRQE.

Long-time businesses such as the historic La Placita restaurant closed during the pandemic. New owners are now using the space as a café. The building that once-housed Backstreet Grill, which was closed due to management’s failure to follow health regulations, is being used as a store and café.

Other spaces sit empty waiting for new entrepreneurs to locate in what has traditionally been an area that catered to tourists.

“There’s a couple things that are pretty empty,” Patricia Silva, the manager at Noisy Water Winery told KRQE. “I do see a couple restaurants coming in now though which is pretty nice. Vacancies, but more people showing up. Local restaurants coming in to play.”

Noisy Water Winery is among the businesses trying to attract more locals to Old Town and offer a more regular clientele. “I’ve had locals come in and say, ‘Oh I haven’t been here in five years,’” Silva said. “We’re like, ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’”

The New Mexico Restaurant Association told KRQE that high prices, supply chain issues and staff shortages continue to plague restaurants. A recent statewide industry survey by the NMRA showed 80% of restaurants in the state increased their menu prices and 49% reduced their house of operation.

Old Town’s challenge is to offer the authentic and traditional offerings visitors expect to experience in New Mexico along with new tastes and experiences.

“We’re looking for some real authentic stuff and it’s kind of hard to pick out here what’s really authentic and what’s the kind of newer, trendier, tackier stuff going on,” Matt, a tourist from Dallas, told KRQE.