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Immigrant action closes some restaurants

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Monday wasn’t the easiest day for restaurant-goers to buy a burrito – especially one made by a Mexican cook.Restaurant closures were one of the most highly visible local impacts of the national Day Without Immigrants protest, which also resulted in some construction workers and other employees staying home from work.Mexican restaurants were especially hard-hit. In Glenwood Springs, both Tequila’s and Fiesta Guadalajara were closed Monday.”I came this morning to open the restaurant. I have a business to take care of,” said Jorge Gonzalez, manager of Fiesta Guadalajara and from Mexico himself. “And none of my employees were there. I had to close the restaurant.”Tequila’s made the best of the day by closing for renovations. Only a few Anglo construction workers could be found there.Likewise, the Village Smithy in Carbondale closed for a day of spring cleaning.A tour of Carbondale revealed a host of Mexican restaurants that were closed, including Mi Casita, El Pollo Rico, Garcia’s Cafe and El Horizonte Restaurant. Also closed were stores oriented to Latinos, such as Teresa’s Market and Gloria’s.At Kentucky Fried Chicken in Glenwood Springs, co-manager Brandon Coombe said a few workers didn’t show up. “We’re a little shorthanded, but we’ll get by,” he said.Coombe said he was expecting fewer customers anyway. Part of the point of Monday’s protest was for immigrants not to go out and spend their money, to demonstrate their economic importance.Antonio Huerta, a cook at KFC, stood at the cash register in the customer-less restaurant as the noon hour approached Monday. “I need money. I need to work,” he said, explaining his decision not to participate in the protest.Huerta also knew Coombe wanted to keep the restaurant open. But Huerta wasn’t finding it all that hard to be part of a shorthanded staff. “There’s no business anyway,” he said.Up the street at Fiesta Guadalajara, Gonzalez had showed up that morning only to discover his workers, all Latinos, were gone. He said he had told them the restaurant would be open, and they had given no indication they wouldn’t show up.But he said he won’t fire them.”I understand that they want to go to the protest,” he said of the afternoon event held at Sayre Park in Glenwood.Gonzalez said the owner of Fiesta Guadalajara, also Mexican, originally had considered closing the restaurant but changed his mind because he didn’t want to inconvenience customers.Juicy Lucy’s, also in Glenwood Springs, closed as well on Monday. But owner David Zumwinkle said the timing was accidental. He had decided to hold an employee picnic at his upvalley home about a month ago, before he was aware of the protest plans. His immigrant employees joined in the picnic instead.”I think it was a good thing for my employees, that they didn’t have guilty feelings about not coming to work or whatever,” he said.He said he has had many immigrants working for the restaurant for years, and all are here legally. He praised their work ethic and values.”They’re indispensable. They contribute greatly to the restaurant industry in this valley,” he said.He said no one but immigrants applies for dishwashing jobs at Juicy Lucy’s.”Without them I wouldn’t be able to operate,” he said.The Hotel Colorado also scheduled an employee appreciation event Monday in a case of accidentally fortuitous timing, said general manager Larry MacDonald. He said the hotel celebrated an “Uno de Mayo” Day with its employees because it’s usually too busy on Cinco de Mayo for its employees to mark the day.He estimated that the hotel has about 30 immigrant employees. Many are Mexican, but others come from places like Costa Rica, Hungary and Russia.The hotel gave out prizes and served authentic Mexican food to its employees Monday, MacDonald said. He said no immigrants skipped work there.”We talk openly about it. I don’t think any of them struggled with their decision. They know where their loyalty is. … We take good care of them, they take care of us. It’s a great relationship.”The Hampton Inn in Glenwood Springs reported no no-shows Monday. Herman Aardsma, general manager of the Hotel Denver, said only two Latinos were scheduled to work, and both showed up.Next door at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., a couple of immigrant workers didn’t work, but both notified the restaurant weeks in advance of their plans, said Ty Vindiola, who was managing the restaurant Monday.With some other area restaurants closed, she said Glenwood Canyon Brewing seemed a little busier than normal, “but it’s hard to say because I don’t know what the numbers are.”Carlos Garcia was among those immigrant workers who partook in Monday’s protest. A laborer at the Snowmass Club, he gathered with friends at a residence near Sopris Park in Carbondale in preparation for a rally there.”We decided to take the day off today. We wanted to be a part of this event,” he said.”My boss was good, but I guess he understands. He supports me, too,” Garcia said.A Carbondale resident, Garcia, 21, is from Mexico but has no legal papers.”It’s funny because I’ve been here most of my life,” said Garcia.He said making it so immigrants are unable to live here legally “makes it harder for everybody.”The lack of Latinos Monday was noticeable during construction work at Sopris Shopping Center in Carbondale. Gary McFarland, a foreman for T.J. Concrete Construction in Carbondale, said a few immigrants took the day off from that company.”We’re still up and running,” he said as he readied for a pour of concrete. “We’ve got five or six jobs running. They didn’t bother us too much.”Shawn Vondette, manager for Casey Concrete outside Rifle, said some contractors reported they were impacted a little, but all concrete orders that had been scheduled a week ago still were filled Monday.Kevin Merritt, owner of KDM Builders, was working on construction of a warehouse at Cattle Creek Monday and said he doesn’t have any Latino employees because he can’t speak Spanish.”I’ve had them working for me in the past and if you can’t understand it’s pretty dangerous,” he said.


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