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Alcohol delivery bill advances in House

To-go orders and outdoor dining have been the saving grace for some bars with kitchens like Sister Bar in Downtown Albuquerque. Lawmakers are considering changing liquor laws in an attempt to help the hospitality industry. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — A proposal to allow restaurants and liquor stores to deliver alcoholic drinks to customers — amid broader changes to the Liquor Control Act — began moving through the state House on Wednesday.

The legislation, House Bill 255, advanced past a committee without recommendation after substantial amendments, and lawmakers said they intend to make further changes.

As it stands now, the bill would allow home-delivery of alcohol in some circumstances and establish tax breaks intended to help the holders of certain liquor licenses.

The legislation also proposes a new license that would allow restaurants to expand from serving beer and wine to hard liquor, though local communities could choose to opt out.

It was at the center of about 3½ hours of testimony and debate Wednesday as a variety of liquor-license holders slammed the changes, contending they would damage the value of their investments and harm public health.

“This bill will flood the market with alcohol,” said Mark Rhodes, an attorney who represents a package liquor association.

After the testimony, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, secured committee approval for amendments he said would help address the concerns of liquor-license holders.

He pledged to keep working with opponents as the measure heads next to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

“We’re going to try to our darnedest to jump-start the economy once COVID is gone from our communities,” Maestas said. The goal of the bill is to “save our restaurant industry and save our tourism industry.”

The House Commerce and Economic Development agreed 6-3 to move the amended bill forward without a recommendation. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, joined five Democrats in support of the motion, and the other three Republicans voted in dissent.

“We need to continue the conversation,” Fajardo said.

Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, told the online audience that legislators will refine the bill to “make this as workable for as many of you as possible.”

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