Tommy Lopez, Patrick Hayes
Updated: January 22, 2021 10:11 PM
Created: January 22, 2021 09:43 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- There could soon be another way to get alcohol in New Mexico.
Home delivery has been discussed for years, and now those leading the renewed charge are confident the changes will become law this year. Bills in the state legislature expected to be taken up this session also include dramatically lowering licensing costs for restaurants that want to serve liquor.
The proposed changes are meant to help people and many of the state’s businesses that are struggling during the pandemic.
The types of businesses that would be able to deliver alcohol include grocery stores, liquor stores, breweries, wineries, craft distilleries, and restaurants. Although, restaurants would be unable to deliver liquor.
Many restaurants are excited at the possibility of being able to deliver alcohol, including Tomasita’s in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“Absolutely. Once we know all the details, how to do it properly, we’re on board with this because it will help us along with a lot of other independent restaurants,” said Albuquerque manager Dolores Welk-Jack.
They admit, this change would have been helpful at the start of the pandemic.
“I wish it would have been here a long time ago. Other states have this right now, and it’s working well for them,” Welk-Jack said.
The states that allow alcohol delivery include Colorado.
Right now in New Mexico, Democrats are leading the push, including Bernalillo County Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, (D) District 15, who’s sponsoring House Bill 8.
“At this time, during a global pandemic, especially our small business owners, our restaurants, are really in need of some help, and it was really important to all of us working on this bill to give them that help in a way that still is reasonable and responsible,” she said.
Senate Democrats will introduce the same bill, with Santa Fe Sen. Peter Wirth, (D) District 25, sponsoring it. He spoke with the New Mexico Restaurant Association in a recent town hall.
“I’d love to send that up as soon as we possibly can to the governor to get it signed,” Wirth said, to which NMRA CEO Carol Wight replied, “We very much appreciate that, and it will help restaurants.”
The pandemic adds a sense of urgency to provide that help right now, but many lawmakers believe the momentum has been building for home delivery anyway. It almost became law two years ago.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says this is a priority for her. She pushed for it in the special session this past summer.
In a tweet this week, Lujan Grisham wrote, “This kind of support should be a no-brainer.”
And Republicans say it should have bipartisan support. GOP lawmakers have proposed similar bills in the past.
Still, there are concerns, including easier access to alcohol for people under 21, and for people who are already drunk. But state regulators are on board, saying past concerns would be cleared up. They’ve been involved in writing the bill.
“To ensure that there was a framework, a tight framework, on how it’s delivered,” said Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Andrew Vallejos. “That we’re keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors, keeping it so that we don’t serve to intoxicated people.”
In a sense, it brings the waiter, waitress, bartender, or checkout counter right to someone’s door.
The license that allows businesses to deliver would be brand new. They would be able to use third-party delivery services, which would also need a license, and drivers would need a permit -- like a waiter or waitress does. They’ll check IDs, and make sure the person who ordered is the same person receiving it.
“We’ve got to revitalize main street New Mexico, and hospitality and tourism and safe delivery of alcohol all plays into that,” Vallejos said.
House Bill 8, if approved, would allow restaurant owners to pay $3,000 a year in exchange for a license to sell liquor and mixed drinks.
Right now, there’s a set amount of liquor licenses in the state which makes them costly.
However, those against the bill worry that creating a new type of license would devalue their investment.
“And the problem is that people – from big companies, to individuals, to small business owners – have saved their money and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for these licenses and it’s not right, it’s not moral to make these licenses suddenly worthless,” said George Gundrey, owner of Tomasita’s.
Gundrey said his aunt previously leased her license for income to survive. According to Gundry, if the bill passes, it would hurt other license holders financially.
“There’s nothing in this bill that I understand that would sufficiently pay the liquor license owners the value of their licenses and that’s the big problem,” he added.
“In the end, if these licenses are devalued, the question can be brought up but we can’t speak about it as if it’s fact because it simply isn’t,” said Hochman-Vigil.
Hochman-Vigil told KOB 4 the bill is meant as an economic driver and would give local restaurants another tool to make money.
“Restaurants have been one of the hardest hit industries in New Mexico and across the country,” she said.
“This is about fairness and bringing an equitable approach to liquor licensing,” Hochman-Vigil added.
The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Director Andrew Vallejos said, “People who want to own a restaurant, that want to serve margaritas, for example, with Mexican food, this allows them to have that option without having to pay the higher rate to get a dispensing license which averages anywhere between $350,000 to $500,000 on the resale market.”
Matt Kennicott, spokesman for the New Mexico Bar, Entertainment and Nightclub Association, told KOB 4 the group supports some parts of the bill but not the new types of liquor licenses.
Meanwhile, officials with the New Mexico Restaurant Association said they’ll review the bill on Monday.
“While we very much support the legislation that allows for takeout and delivery of alcohol, this one piece of legislation has far-reaching consequences going beyond the question of off-premise alcohol sales. The New Mexico Restaurant Association board of directors is meeting on Monday to review the legislation and decide whether we will support it,” said Carol Wight, executive director of NMRA.
The bill is currently in committee.
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