By Tony Parra
Portales residents will weigh in on whether beer and wine will be flowing through many restaurants in Portales in the near future when they go to the polls on Sept. 21.
If the vote is passed, the Alcohol and Gaming Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department can begin to grant beer and wine licenses to Portales restaurant owners. Restaurant owners can pay a one-time fee of $1,050.
For example, restaurants like El Rancho, Juanitos or Wagon Wheel can apply for a license. If a restaurant is granted a license, it would pay $1,050 and $250 each year to renew the license, according to Joan Martinez-Terry, city clerk.
“In today’s competitive market, it’s important for economic development,” Portales Mayor Orlanda Ortega said. “We need this to accommodate the public. There are at least three restaurants interested in pursuing the ordinance. When new businesses look at our community they ask several questions and one of the questions is if we have the option.”
Ortega would not disclose which restaurants are interested in the ordinance.
Liquor licenses like the ones that exist at Cattle Baron and The Roosevelt cost an average of $150,000, according to Ortega. Martinez-Terry said those licenses cost $250 to renew each year as well. Ortega said Wal-Mart purchased its liquor license for $300,000.
The cost of liquor licenses is daunting to smaller restaurants, and many believe the beer and wine licenses would be a boon for those establishments.
“I think it would level the playing field,” Portales resident Wayne Gunn said. “Everyone should get the same shot to serve alcohol. It’s unfair to the people who can’t serve beer and compete against Cattle Baron.”
The advantage does come with responsibilty for those restaurants, however.
“They are heavily regulated,” Ortega said about the beer and wine licenses. “Licenses can’t be transferred, each business has to send in an application for one. Every employee has to receive alcohol server training within 30 days of employment.”
The regulation of the licenses is completed by the Alcohol and Gaming Division officials from the state department. Despite the regulation, some residents are opposed to the idea.
“I am strictly against it,” Portales resident Mamie Oney said. “From the Christian aspect, I don’t believe it should pass. It’s (alcohol) ruined too many lives.”
There are residents from Portales who are in favor of it and believe Portales residents are responsible enough to handle liquor with their meals.
“I think it would be outstanding,” Linda Moyer said. “I believe you should be able to have a drink with your meal if you want to. We’re all responsible adults.”
The beer and wine license comes with restrictions and regulations. Even if a restaurant owner does want to apply, he or she must follow these restrictions:
• Restaurant must submit evidence that they have a current valid food service establishment permit.
• The primary source of revenue from the restaurant will be derived from meals and not from the sale of beer and wine.
• Not less than 60 percent of gross receipts from the preceding 12 months operation of the licensed restaurant were derived from the sale of meals.
• The restaurant must submit an annual report to the state indicating the annual gross receipts from the sale of meals and from beer and wine sales.
• Restaurant licenses cannot sell beer and wine for consumption off the licensed premises.
• All sales, services and consumption of beer and wine shall cease at the time meal sales and services will stop of at 11 p.m., whichever is earlier.
• Customers are only allowed two drinks at one time. However, there is no limit set on how many drinks a customer can purchase at one sitting. That is up to the server’s discretion.
• The establishment cannot be within 300 feet of a church, school or military installation.
Ortega said concerns over more restaurants having alcohol has been discussed with city councilors.
“I feel this will be a positive,” Ortega said. “It’s heavily monitored by the Alcohol and Gaming Division. I’ve been to civic groups (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Clubs) and addressed their concerns. This is something city council and the mayor has brought to special election. I encourage people to get out and help.”
Voting will be on Sept. 21, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but early voting or absentee voting can be accomplished now at City Hall until Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Martinez-Terry said if the option passes, she must contact the Alcohol and Gaming Division and if there is no contest to the election by Oct. 27, restaurants can begin applying for the licenses.