Legislature approves bill to waive liquor license fees

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Legislature has approved a bill that would provide a one-time waiver of annual liquor license fees, amid discussions of a broad regulatory overhaul of alcohol sales.

A 64-0 vote of approval by the House of Representatives on Thursday sent the measure to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has embraced a variety of economic relief measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo called the fee waiver a “gesture of good will to our liquor license holders who have struggled during the pandemic.”

The state will forgo about $3.6 million in income from fees.

There are roughly 3,800 active liquor licenses holders in the state, including about 790 dispenser licensees and 710 restaurant licensees.

Annual state fees range from $25 to $3,000, depending on the type of license.

Separately, the state Senate is weighing a separate House-approved bill that would relax state restrictions on liquor sales in an effort to energize the hospitality industry.

That bill would expand restaurant alcohol licenses that meet local ordinances to include not only beer and wine but also spirits with a 10 p.m. cutoff, while legalizing alcohol deliveries that are accompanied by food.

Lujan Grisham says she supports the efforts to reform the state’s the state’s liquor licensure program and allow alcohol deliveries.

Legislators are wrestling with how to modernize a closely guarded monopoly on licenses for packaged liquor sales that routinely sell for more than $300,000 and serve as family inheritances.