NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A company that operates gas stations in New Mexico is claiming the state is unfairly singling out McKinley County by not letting its gas stations sell liquor. The new rule is among the sweeping changes made to the state’s liquor laws that just went into effect.

Western Refining Retail has 115 stores and gas stations in New Mexico. It’s claiming it’s unconstitutional for the state to keep it from selling liquor at 10 of its locations in McKinley County.

“People die in McKinley County because of alcoholism,” Sen. George Munoz stated.
That’s why he made an amendment to the state’s Liquor Control Act earlier this year that specifically targets retailers attached to gas stations.

“Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it should be readily available and convenient in every single location,” Sen. Munoz explained.

The newly enacted rule states any dispenser or retailer licensee who sells gasoline in a county with a population between 56,000 and 57,000 people cannot sell alcohol other than beer. McKinley is the only county that falls under that population threshold.

This lawsuit just filed by Western Refining Retail is claiming that the amendment is unconstitutional, and is urging the state to stop enforcing it because it impacts 14 businesses in the county.

The refinery company says it runs 10 of those, and the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department shows the company has dispenser licenses at Speedway, Giant and Conoco gas stations in Gallup.

In response to the lawsuit, the Democrat who represents McKinley County said this change is a matter of trying to save lives. According to the lawsuit, a New Mexico Department of Health substance use report states the county has 20 or more alcohol-related deaths per year.

“Why do we have to watch people continue to die?” Sen. Munoz asked.

In response to the lawsuit, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department said it will not comment until it’s been served and has reviewed the lawsuit. The amendment does not affect other McKinley County businesses like grocery stores, package liquor stores, restaurants and bars.