SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico lawmakers approved a dramatic overhaul of the state’s liquor laws. Tuesday, the Senate approved a sweeping alcohol bill which includes alcohol home deliveries and more restrictions for one county. House Bill 255 is now headed to the governor after a lot of changes and a lot of debate.
New Mexico’s liquor laws are getting an overhaul. “This is without question the most impactful liquor reform bill in 40 years in the state of New Mexico,” Bill Sponsor Rep. Moe Maestas said.
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Tuesday, the Senate approved House Bill 255 which would allow retailers like grocery stores and restaurants to deliver alcohol to your home. It would also create a new category of restaurant liquor licenses that modifies beer and wine licenses to include spirits, making it easier for restaurants to serve liquor. The bill was amended eight times. “It is the second-most amended bill I can recall,” said Rep. Maestas.
The latest version of the bill bans the sale of mini liquor bottles for off-site consumption statewide. For example, you could drink one while out on the golf course, but you could not buy one at a gas station. Lawmakers axed their earlier plan to impose a 2% tax on retail sales. Another major change is alcohol sales could start before 11 a.m. on Sundays.
One amendment by Sen. George Munoz bans the sale of hard liquor at convenience stores just in McKinley County. “If you are a convenient store with a retail license, you can only serve beer,” Munoz said. “This will help the problem in McKinley tremendously.”
Some critics of that amendment said it may just drive residents to other counties to get booze. Others questioned if it is targeting Native Americans. “To me, there is almost a racial element,” Sen. Mark Moores said. “It is almost saying a certain cultural population cannot handle their liquor so we have to ban them from buying this liquor.”
That amendment ended up passing too. Maestas and Munoz said McKinley County has more liquor licenses per capita than New York City. “McKinley ended up with a large disproportionate amount of liquor stores and licenses so we are trying to use market incentives to move some licenses out of McKinley County,” Maestas said.
Those who voted against the final bill said that their constituents, who are liquor license holders, are worried about their licenses losing value. Maestas said all existing licenses will remain intact and can be sold, leased, or transferred. If the governor signs the bill, it will become law on July 1.