ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — He wanted the sounds of corks popping, of crystal clinking, of bubbles fizzing, of toasts and thanks and tears when a woman finally says yes to the dress.
He wanted celebratory sounds. Indulgent sounds.
And so it seemed perfect to Jason Jones, owner and general manager of Ann Matthews Bridal, to serve a bit of the bubbly to his customers once a bride-to-be and her squad agree upon the perfect wedding dress for that perfect day with her perfect match.
“It’s a special occasion,” said Jones, whose business has been a bridal institution in Albuquerque for 17 years, 12 at the current location on Alameda at Coors NW. “Choosing a wedding gown is a moment to remember. It’s like no other shopping experience. It’s something to be celebrated. Toasting the bride with Champagne makes a lot of sense.”
But it didn’t to the folks at the state Alcohol and Gaming Division. To them, Jones, his staff and his imbibing bridal parties were a just few bubbles away from a felony.
“We get this call from their lawyer saying we better not do this anymore or we’d all be put in jail,” Jones said. “But they couldn’t tell us what law we were breaking.”
But there is a law. Under state statute (60-7A-22, for you legal types), it’s a violation of the Liquor Control Act for any person without a liquor license to sell, serve or permit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in his or her public establishment or private club. It is also a violation for any person to consume alcoholic beverages in any public establishment unless the establishment is licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.
Violating the act is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Which is quite the buzzkill.
But how could this be, Jones wondered. Why would New Mexico be against a simple act of celebration within the confines of a private business? Where was the love?
For years, movies and TV shows have made sipping bubbly while selecting a wedding dress seem as crucial as a bridal veil, a necessary nicety to wet the whistles of the gaggles of giggling women cooing over concoctions of lace and charmeuse.
But not every bridal salon – in fact, not most – offers sparkling wine salutes, among them Kleinfeld Bridal, the Manhattan shop made famous by the TLC cable show “Say Yes to the Dress.” Patrons there are allowed only bottled water.
Jones began the sparkling wine toasts in February 2017, purchasing a supply of crystal flutes – no cheap plastic coupe glasses for him – and a case of New Mexico’s own Gruet sparkling rosé for a nice pink touch.
There was no over-serving, he said. No serving of the underaged. He and a staff member obtained server permits – the same state-approved licenses waiters and bar servers need to dispense booze in restaurants and liquor establishments.
“Everybody’s happy,” he said. “It looks great in photos. It was just a neat day for everybody.”
Jones said he suspects a disgruntled bridesmaid – because if we’ve learned anything from shows like “Bridezillas,” there’s always a disgruntled bridesmaid – reported his practice to the Alcohol and Gaming Division, which resulted in a visit by an investigator, who Jones said did not appear very concerned about the matter.
“I didn’t think much of it, didn’t hear anything more for an extended period of time, so I figured case closed,” he said.
But in August a second call advised Jones that the agency’s attorney had ordered him to stop serving the sparkling wine toasts.
So Jones put a cork in it.
But he questions why other businesses are allowed to serve alcohol in small amounts to clients – upscale hair and nail salons, limousine rentals and lawyer’s offices after winning a big case for clients.
“It seems like the Alcohol and Gaming Division picks a chooses who it goes after,” he said. “Why is it common sense to leave one business alone and go after the other?”
But Bernice Geiger, spokeswoman for the state Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees Alcohol and Gaming, said none of those businesses is serving alcohol legally.
“There are no exceptions in the law for small amounts of alcohol,” she said.
Jones said he thinks something needs to change to resume this small bit of courtesy, done responsibly, privately and in the spirit of love.
Until then, brides will have to settle for sparkling cider and well-wishes.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.