The Rio Rancho restaurant is about to open a new dining room

Karen Johnson-Bey, owner of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion, is expanding her restaurant’s dining room to accommodate 30 additional diners. She said the new space will open on Saturday, January 22. (Matt Hollinshead/Rio Rancho Observer)

RIO RANCHO — Karen Johnson-Bey has faced setback after setback in expanding her restaurant’s dining room due to COVID-19, but now the owner of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion is finally gearing up to launch this extra space.

The project to add additional dining space began in December 2019. Johnson-Bey said everything needed to happen at least two weeks before COVID-19 entered New Mexico in March 2020. What Now , it will soon come to fruition, officially opening Saturday, January 22 — National Southern Food Day.

“We’re very excited. It’s been a while to come,” Johnson-Bey said.

K’Lynn’s first opened in 2015. Johnson-Bey said his restaurant kept growing until more dining space was needed to accommodate additional customers and equipment.

“That side just wasn’t enough, almost immediately,” she said.

Johnson-Bey said K’Lynn’s, at 4300 Ridgecrest Drive in Rio Rancho, will be able to accommodate 30 additional customers in the new dining room, more than double the dining capacity inside.

“It contains everything we need to grow,” she said.

Johnson-Bey said the new space will give her about 1,200 square feet of dining space.

K’Lynn’s has been hit hard by the financial toll of COVID-19, like other local restaurants. Johnson-Bey said she only had to make do with delivery in the early days of the pandemic, then faced staff shortages after indoor catering services were restored.

She also said that she couldn’t initially use the brand new silverware she bought because the use of the dishwasher was limited, as no one was willing to work during the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s been a lot, it really is,” she said.

K’Lynn’s serves Southern favorites like gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, sweet potato pie and donuts.

Johnson-Bey has called the Rio Rancho area home since 1977, and she said it was better she was able to expand her operations here than elsewhere.

“This (space) had been sitting here for quite a while, vacant,” she said. “It made more sense under the contract to go in that direction, and that’s what I did.”

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