Owners of Santa Fe Bite waiting on liquor license

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SANTA FE, N.M. – It’s officially the weekend, and some like to blow off steam with a drink or two. But there is a well-known New Mexican eatery where alcohol is off the menu, for now.

“I sure would love to order a glass of wine here,” Santa Fe Bite customer Amara Charles told KOB 4, shortly after a waitress placed a fresh slice of key lime before her. “I’ve asked many times and they always say, well, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming.’”

But not even the restaurant’s co-owner Angela Mason knows when she’ll be able to serve Charles that glass.

“What we’re hoping for right now is three months,” she said. “I think I’m about a month-and-a-half into that first three months.”

Phillip Sanchez, the Division Counsel for Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the process for restaurants to get a new liquor license takes approximately 120 to 150 days and could be even longer with delays.

Santa Fe Bite already had a liquor license before Mason and her partner took ownership in January, but to keep in line with state regulations, they had to get rid of all their alcohol overnight and start the licensing process from scratch.

“It’s nontransferable,” Mason explained. “You have to start at the beginning.”

Sanchez said he understands the state’s process is long and tedious, but new applications, hearings and background checks are necessary to make sure liquor licenses do not fall into the wrong hands.

“What may delay a license application, it tends to be deficiencies with the application itself,” he said.

Sanchez recommends business owners double-check their paperwork to ensure it is correct and complete. That will help their application move through the system as quickly as possible.

Mason said she is fortunate to have a strong customer base that comes in for food so she and her partner can afford to wait for approval, but it is still hard to explain to customers why their business had to suddenly stop selling alcohol.

“You have regular customers that you see three or four times a week, and now we won’t see them for months, because they always have a glass of wine with their meal,” Mason said. “They’re going to go somewhere where they can have that glass of wine.”

Charles is one of the loyal regulars, and she said she is more than okay settling for a cup of hot water with lemon until Santa Fe Bite’s bar reopens.

“It’ll just get better when that is available, and I just honestly– I just think it’s a crying shame that it takes so long,” Charles said.

KOB 4 reached out to the New Mexico Restaurant Association. A representative sent the following statement:

“It does seem to take an inordinate amount of time in NM to process some liquor license applications. We have had complaints from restaurants that are unable to open with their liquor license in place because of the time required for state and city approvals. “

Click here to learn more about the liquor license application process in New Mexico.