RATON, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been about six months since the state enacted sweeping changes to New Mexico’s liquor laws. The changes are having a big impact on businesses in one New Mexico town that usually has to compete with a bordering state.

Having a full liquor license was a luxury few small businesses could afford. “Especially in a small community like ours, having to come up with anywhere between $300 to $500,000 just for a liquor license it was again almost unreal,” said Maurice Lemus, who owns Casa Lemus Inn and Restaurant in Raton. “There were very very few facilities that only even offered beer and wine before.”

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In a town fueled by I-25 travelers from Texas to Arizona, Lemus said drivers looking to unwind for the night would often opt to drive another 20 miles to Trinidad, Colorado where there were more places to grab a drink. “By the time Trinidad is 100% full on all their hotels, Raton they would still only be 60-70% full. They always get sold out before we do,” Lemus said.

However, that all started to change in July when new liquor law changes went into effect. The law, in part, lowers the prices for a full liquor license from around $300,000 to about $10,000. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham mentioned Lemus by name in her State of the State address using his businesses as an example of how the change is helping business owners across New Mexico.

“Having this available now to our community, we’ll go ahead and again serve those people who are traveling through,” said Lemus. He says the vast majority of his customers now opt for a cocktail with their meals and he, along with other business owners in Raton, are happy they can afford to serve customers what they’re looking for. “I think the community as a whole will benefit, by far, even more,” said Lemus.

He says businesses in Raton are hoping for a busy summer tourist season following two slow years due to the pandemic.