City Commission meetings are held 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays each month at City Hall, 201 W. Chaco St. For more information, call 505-334-7600 or go online to aztecnm.gov. For more information on state laws and regulations, go to rld.state.nm.us.
AZTEC — Want to enjoy a mimosa or a frothy pint of beer when dining out on Sundays? Not yet, Aztec.
Sunday sales of alcoholic drinks are, despite recent efforts to ease restrictions, still prohibited in the city.
New Mexico law allows for drinks to be sold on Sundays only if residents of a municipality vote to approve it. That can be done by collecting a minimum of 5 percent of registered voters' signatures.
But a recent petition to allow for Sunday alcohol-by-the-glass sales at dining establishments in Aztec failed to produce enough signatures to compel commissioners to hold a special election on the issue.
As of the last election, there were 4,132 registered Aztec voters. Signatures from at least 5 percent -- or 207 voters -- were needed to compel the commission to hold a special election.
While 250 signatures were collected, the city clerk determined that only 134 were acceptable. The other 116 were not valid, either because they were signed by people who were not residents or who were not registered to vote in Aztec.
Robert Paschall, owner of the Hiway Grill in Aztec, said a large number of his eatery's patrons do not live within city limits, and he says that's why many of the signatures he collected were purged.
"The irony is that a lot of our customers shop, work, dine and enjoy the city of Aztec, but live just outside the city on a county road," Paschall said. "The law seems a little ridiculous and archaic, if you ask me."
Lisa Akin, manager at Rubio's Mexican restaurant and bar on South Main Avenue, echoed Paschall's frustrations.
"We had a lot of people -- over half of our clientele -- who wanted to sign the petition but couldn't because of their home address," Akin said. "We're losing the potential to be open on Sundays, bring people in after church or for football on Sundays, to Farmington. We certainly would like to see a change, and the majority of our customers feel the same way."
Both Farmington and Durango, Colo., allow alcohol-by-the-glass sales on Sundays.
"One problem is that no one can even sell hard liquor by the glass anywhere in the city," said Aztec Media owner Dale Anderson, who signed the petition. "If, say, I'm taking a client to brunch, we're going to have to go elsewhere, to Farmington or Durango, to have a Bloody Mary or gin and tonic."
The petition gathered strength during recent meetings of local economic development groups. At a Feb. 21 meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Board, owners of both Rubio's and the Hiway Grill voiced concern over the loss of business because of the current prohibition and the potential for increased tourism. And attendees at an April meeting of Aztec Community Event Session, a new group that organizes and promotes local events, agreed that repealing the ban would increase tourism and benefit local businesses.
Katee McClure, president of Animas River Arts and Entertainment, said the law makes little sense.
"Might as well ban sales on Tuesdays. Or no beef or pork sold on Fridays. Makes about as much sense," said McClure, the organizer of the annual Blues and Brew Fest in Aztec.
McClure collected more than 100 signatures on her own in an effort to overturn the ban.
"I'm not really a drinker, but it's absurd that I can buy alcohol by the barrel at Safeway on Sundays, but can't have a glass of wine in a restaurant," she said. "This law is from an old rule book that doesn't make any sense or have any relevance anymore."