By Tony Parra
Portales voters will decide today if city restaurant owners can apply for beer and wine licenses from the state.
If voters approve, restaurant owners could begin sending applications to the state’s alcohol and gaming division as early as Oct. 27.
While the city already allows liquor licenses, the beer and wine license will be far less expensive for successful applicants.
Officials said a restaurant owner wanting a beer and wine license must pay a one-time application fee of $200 and an annual fee of $1,050. Gary Tomada, director of the state’s alcohol and gaming division, said the restaurant owner must also pay a $500 federal tax stamp fee. Portales city clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said the restaurant owner must pay an annual operating fee of $250 to the city.
Tomada said the beer and wine license was introduced in 1981 because restaurant owners didn’t want to pay the high cost of the liquor license, but wanted to offer beer and wine with meals. A liquor license can cost more than $150,000, officials said.
Restaurant owners who want to retain beer and wine licenses must show at least 60 percent of their gross receipts are derived from the sale of meals.
“I would say 99.9 percent of the time the restaurant employees require the customer to purchase a meal,” Tomada said. “… Most of the restaurant’s profit comes from the sale of meals. On an average, 4 percent of total sales are from beer and wine.”
Tomada said restaurants that serve alcohol must not be located within 300 feet of a church or school. That restriction will include Eastern New Mexico University.
“Once we receive an application from a restaurant owner, then we post a sign on the location stating alcohol will be offered in the establishment,” Tomada said. “People have 20 days to protest. They can send a letter to the state department and we’ll attach it with the application. We send it back to the city and they can use the letters to deny the request or they can decide to approve it.”
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said the restaurants are regulated by New Mexico’s alcohol and gaming division, not the city. He said the licenses are heavily regulated.
Portales residents have expressed mixed views on the issue.
“I don’t see what’s wrong with what we’ve got,” Portales resident Carol Banks said. “It means more places to drink and probably more drunks.”
Another resident, Bud Kenyon, disagreed.
“I don’t think it would hurt anything,” Kenyon said. “It suits me fine.”
Voting will be taking place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in four polling places around Portales.