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Lujan Grisham signs overhaul of NM liquor laws

In this March 9 photo, a display shows mini liquor bottles for sale at Kelly's Liquors in Albuquerque. Legislation signed Wednesday will ban the sale of containers of 3 ounces or less of liquor, unless they are to be consumed on site, such as in a hotel or at a golf course. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Wednesday the most extensive changes to New Mexico liquor laws in 40 years – legislation that will expand drink-delivery options, make it easier for restaurants to serve mixed drinks and ban the sale of miniatures at convenience stores.

The proposal, House Bill 255, faced intense opposition from some liquor license holders who fear the changes will damage the value of their licenses by eroding the distinction between bars and restaurants, among other consequences.

Debate over the bill – by a mix of Democratic and Republican lawmakers – did not fall along party lines.

Supporters said the new law could help entrepreneurs looking to enter into the restaurant business by lowering the cost to secure permission to serve spirits and mixed drinks, not just beer and wine.

Lujan Grisham said the legislation could establish new revenue streams for existing restaurants, too, by allowing the delivery of alcoholic drinks with food orders.

“As lawmakers from both parties said over the course of debate,” she said, “this was an example of productive and creative problem-solving, with well-considered, and compassionate and careful arguments made on both sides of a complicated and charged issue.”

The law goes into effect July 1.

At the heart of the legislation is a shift in philosophy on alcohol delivery – a move supporters say could reduce drunken driving and meet the growing demand for ordering food from home.

The law will allow package stores, restaurants, small breweries and certain other businesses to apply for permits to deliver alcoholic drinks to customers' homes. Restaurants could deliver alcohol only with food.

Identification checks will be required.

The sweeping law makes a host of changes to the state's liquor laws. It will establish new licenses intended to make it cheaper for restaurants to secure permission to serve liquor, not just beer and wine.

The sale of drinks of 3 ounces or less for off-site consumption will be banned. Minis would still be allowed at hotels, golf courses and other places where customers drink them on site.

The bill also lifts the restriction on Sunday sales of alcohol before 11 a.m., and it prohibits the sale of wine and spirts at McKinley County gas stations.

“Like any bipartisan compromise, at the end of the day, most if not all will feel both that they got some of what they wanted and had to give some of what they didn't,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a written statement.

Jointly sponsoring the bill were Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque; Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque; House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington; Rep. Joshua Hernandez, R-Rio Rancho; and Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque.

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