NM liquor law reform bill goes into effect Thursday

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A sweeping overhaul of New Mexico’s liquor laws goes into effect Thursday, but some of the biggest components are still on hold. Restaurants said some of the things they were most excited about, they won’t be able to take advantage of for several months.

Starting Sunday, all Range Cafe locations will start serving alcohol right when they open at 7 a.m. “That is going to be great,” owner Matt DiGregory said. “Sunday morning is one of our best days for people who come to our restaurants.”

This comes as House Bill 255, which state lawmakers passed in March, goes into effect Thursday. It will now allow Sunday morning alcohol sales. Other big changes effective Thursday are the ban of mini-liquor bottles for off-site consumption. However, there are some things in the bill still on hold. “It is frustrating,” DiGregory said.

Restaurants seeking a Class B license, which expands existing beer and wine licenses to include spirits, will have to wait until their applications are approved. The New Mexico Restaurant Association said so far, none have been issued. “This is a full-on application,” New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight said. “You have to give finger prints to see if you have ever had a felony before, so it takes time to do this.”

DiGregory said they’re seeking that license for their one location that doesn’t serve spirits yet on Wyoming. He is worried that with so many restaurants applying, it is going to be a lengthy process. “I wouldn’t be surprised if six months down the road, we are still trying to figure out the details,” DiGregory said.

Plus, restaurants and grocery stores still can’t deliver alcohol to your home. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division said they won’t begin accepting applications for that until after a public hearing on agency rulemaking is held on July 26 to address some aspects of the law. “The rules, the ins and outs of it… We are in the dark,” DiGregory said.

The restaurant association said it believes when it comes to alcohol delivery, the bill benefits grocery stores more than restaurants since the deliveries have to be sealed. For example, you could deliver an unopened bottle of wine or case of beer but not a margarita made on site.

KRQE News 13 asked the state why all of this wasn’t handled before July 1. They said there were no state-mandated dates included in the bill, and the public hearing must be held after the date the law goes into effect. They are currently accepting public comment ahead of next month’s meeting at Desirae.Griego@state.nm.us.

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