Portales city councilors are unhappy after learning that Sunday liquor sales include bars as well as restaurants.
“I think it would have really affected the outcome of how people voted,” said Councilor Dianne Parker, after being told of the development at a council meeting Tuesday.
“That’s not saying it would change it one way or another,” Parker about a citywide Dec. 13 referendum that saw voters approve Sunday sales. “I’m just saying it was misleading and I don’t want the community to think we were trying to mislead them with it, because we were also misled.”
City leaders said they believed the voters approved Sunday sales for establishments that serve food as well as alcohol. But the state has granted Sunday sales licenses to others.
Mayor Sharon King and city councilors said the wording of the ballot and because the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division did not tell them differently, caused their confusion.
“We’re sorry that it may not have been very clear that it would also include bars and night clubs,” King said, adding the council did not want voters to believe they were purposely misled by city officials.
Portales City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said she did try to tell the community the law would include bars by making announcements on the radio.
“It’s, once again, just a matter of how much can you get information out there to everyone in time,” she said.
Martinez-Terry said the ballot was worded as liquor sales in restaurants, because by law, the ballot must be worded the same as the petition that prompted the special election.
New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division Director Steven Reinhart said there are two types of Sunday liquor sales licenses: Dispenser and restaurant.
The dispenser license is for selling on-site alcohol of any kind and applies to bars and clubs Reinhart said. The restaurant license is for on-site consumption of beer and wine only and applies to businesses who are required to have 60 percent of their annual income from food sales.
A third alcohol license is for package stores and only applies to Sundays if specifically stated within the ordinance being voted on by residents. Reinhart said it doesn’t apply in Portales.
Reinhart said the licenses his division grants apply to the types of alcohol sold, not the days of the week they are sold. He said it is up to local option districts, such as Portales, to decide if sales are allowed on Sundays.
“If the local option district allows for Sunday liquor sales, it (the license) applies to any day of the week,” Reinhart said.
He said the Portales election was simply to determine if businesses already in possession of on-site alcohol licenses would be allowed to sell on Sundays.
Portales restaurant and bar owners said Sunday liquor sales have indeed boosted their revenue.
“The first Sunday, we did pretty good. We had above what I had predicted,” said Dawg Houze owner Chad Heflin. “The following Sunday, we blew up. I was really happy with it. It exceeded my expectations.”
Heflin said his business has made three times the revenue in its two Sundays open than what he had predicted.
He said Sundays has drawn in a lot of military members. He said with college classes being back in session, he is interested to see how this Sunday’s sales will go.
“It’s going to be great for Portales revenue,” Heflin said. “If you don’t want to drink on Sundays, you don’t have to.”
Heflin said he is not surprised some residents and officials are upset by the law including bars.
“I feel like if you vote, you should know what you’re voting for. The vote is what it is,” Heflin said. “By not being open on Sunday, it is only hurting me, because this is how I support my family, and (it was) hurting (the) Portales economy.”
A spokesman for the only other bar in Portales, Goober McCool’s Saloon & Spirits, declined comment.
Cattle Baron Manager Richard Chambers said although business has not increased a lot since Sunday liquor sales started, the restaurant has seen a difference in sales.
“The biggest thing we’ve seen is an increase in our food sales,” Chambers said. “I think people enjoy having that addition of a glass of wine with their meal. Rather than people staying at home with a bottle of wine and cooking on Sunday night, they have the option of going out.”