Talking spirits

Mike Linn

Portales voters in the March general election may have an opportunity to decide whether local restaurant owners can serve beer and wine with food.
City Council member Gary Watkins said at Tuesday night’s city council meeting that local restaurant owners have asked him why the city offers liquor licenses — which are far more expensive — and no beer and wine licenses.
Moreover, Watkins noted that a restaurant owner who was recently seeking to open a Portales-based eatery opted against the idea after city officials said no beer and wine licenses were available.
“This would be good for economic development,” Mayor Orlando Ortega said. “Beer and wine is completely different than a liquor license whereas you have to serve beer and wine with food and you are only allowed to serve so much.”
The Rib Crib in Clovis has a beer and wine license and employees there are only permitted to serve three beers per customer per sitting.
A beer and wine license cost $1,050 a year, while a liquor license runs $200,000 annually, the Albuquerque Journal reported in a July 28 article.
Owners of establishments with liquor licenses are not held to the same standards as those with beer and wine licenses. For example, the drink minimums are more strict at an establishment with a beer and wine license. And employees at establishments serving liquor need not serve food.
City officials say beer and wine licenses for local restaurants will be great for businesses.
If city council members approve a resolution supporting beer and wine licenses in Portales, the decision would then come to registered voters.
City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said the choice could be on the next general election ballot in March.
“It could make for an interesting election,” she said.

Also at the meeting:

l The council voted to send a letter of support for the Portales Area Transit Program (PATP). The letter, city officials say, will help the PATP in seeking a grant to fund the program.
l The council adopted a resolution to change the polling place during elections from the Campus Union Building on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University to a new location at Calvary Baptist Church, 1101 W. 18th St.
Terry said the parking lot was too far from the CUB voting area, and thus not easily accessible for voters.
Terry said a different location is also slated for county elections.