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The city’s plan to reopen the ABQ BioPark Aquarium has run aground after officials say they realized it would violate the state’s public health order.
A day after Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced that the city had found a way to reopen indoor exhibits at the ABQ BioPark starting Oct. 1, the city retracted its plan to invite people back to the aquarium, saying officials had not realized that existing state public health orders prohibit it.
However, the city will still reopen other previously closed indoor BioPark facilities – including the zoo’s Penguin Chill and the Botanic Garden – on Thursday as planned.
“During the excitement of reopening indoor spaces and welcoming the public back to the BioPark, we unfortunately overlooked the fact that aquariums are not yet permitted to reopen per state health orders,” Albuquerque Cultural Services Director Shelle Sanchez said in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon.
New Mexico’s current public health order, dated Sept. 18, says that “close-contact recreational facilities” – including aquariums – must remain closed due to COVID-19.
Keller had on Tuesday released a video message announcing the city had “found a way under the health order to make sure we keep people safe but also allow you and your family to go to the penguin exhibit, the BUGarium, the Aquarium and even the reptile house” starting this week.
Officials backtracked Wednesday with a late afternoon news release acknowledging the mistake.
The city said it will offer automatic refunds to anyone who had already purchased Aquarium tickets.
The city already had sold 822 aquarium tickets for visits between Oct. 1-11, a city spokeswoman said. The city will notify them of the error via email.