For the 37 million U.S. residents with Mexican heritage, today will likely be the quietest Cinco de Mayo they have ever experienced. Many will not be allowed to celebrate it in a restaurant at all, nor in groups exceeding 10 people. Dining rooms in most states remain closed, with some exceptions in Georgia and Texas. Celebrated by Mexicans continuously since their army won the Battle of Puebla against France on May 5th, 1862, the coronavirus has mostly halted all large group celebrations this year.
“It’s definitely going to be a different Cinco de Mayo,” said a Mexican restaurant owner in North Carolina. “This is hard, but there’s a virus going on. We have to be responsible.”
According to Twitter Trends, Cinco de Mayo-related hashtags occupy two of the top 10 hashtags in the U.S. this morning. Somewhat expectedly, however, the magnitude of social media participation with celebratory hashtags is muted compared to prior years. As of this morning, Google Trends estimates that search interest for Cinco de Mayo will peak at the lowest level in 15 years.
Last year, 126 million liters of tequila were consumed on Cinco de Mayo across North America. A fraction of that number is expected for this year’s tally. Aside from the limited capacity in dining rooms within Texas and Georgia, Nielsen estimates that most tequila will be consumed within homes this Cinco de Mayo. Sales of spirits at grocery stores rose 30.4% during the four weeks ending April 18, 2020 according to Nielsen. Fortunately, tequila has a longer shelf life than the reported 10 million gallons of beer which have expired due to COVID-19 limitations on St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness celebrations.
One piece of positive news arrived on Friday when Texas Governor Greg Abbott allowed restaurant dining rooms to reopen. Texas shares a 1,254 mile border with Mexico and is home to over 11 million residents of Mexican heritage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some dining rooms are open in Texas, although occupancy is capped at 25% of the building’s listed capacity. “I’m heading out this evening to enjoy Cinco De Mayo!” says one local resident. “Yes, we have Mexican Restaurants open!”
Nationwide, chain restaurants like Taco Bell, Chipotle, Baja Fresh, and On The Border are offering takeout specials for Cinco de Mayo today. Other states are open for takeout and delivery only. For a list of dining room reopenings in all 50 states, a tracker is available here.