PETITION INFO

 

To download a copy of the petition, see the embedded form at the bottom of the story.

People interested in signing the petition can also contact Fisheads to receive the necessary forms. Call 505-632-1411.

 

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Clerk's Office tossed out more than a third of signatures on a petition that would have forced a special election to decide the fate of beer and wine licenses in unincorporated San Juan County.

Petitioners now have until Tuesday to collect more than 200 names if they want voters to decide whether restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county can serve drinks with meals.

Chris Taylor is the owner of Fisheads San Juan River Lodge. The business operates a fly-fishing guide service, a lodge and Fisheads Back Cast Cafe.

Taylor started gathering signatures on June 24 to hold a local option district election in the county.

Beer and wine licenses are sold for a little more than $1,000 per year, and there is a $200 application fee, said San Juan County Deputy Attorney Doug Echols. The licenses allow restaurants to sell beer and wine along with food. Food has to account for 60 percent of a restaurant's sales for it to have a beer and wine license.

Municipalities, including cities and counties, have held elections to allow the licenses. Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield have each held elections on the issue, and residents have voted in favor of the licenses.

A special election must be approved by the county commission, or a petition could force the county to hold an election so people can vote on the issue. The commission declined to approve the election, so Taylor started the petition.

"Most (people who have been asked to sign the petition) have been psyched about it," Taylor said. "The most common reaction I've heard is, 'Why can't you get a beer and wine license?'"

San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said petitioners had to collect signatures from 5 percent of the 38,890 registered voters in unincorporated San Juan County, which is 1,944 signatures. Those voters include residents of Navajo Nation communities, even though beer and wine licenses would not be allowed on the reservation if the measure passed.

Taylor submitted 2,616 signatures. But the clerk's office discarded 893 signatures, leaving Fisheads with 1,723. That's 221 signatures short.

Holmes said Taylor has until Tuesday to collect those 221 signatures and force an election.

Holmes said she vetted the signatures using the same process she uses for all petitions. Many petitions are submitted by candidates vying for elected office, who have to submit a list of signatures for their name to appear on a ballot.

The most common reasons signatures were tossed out was because the people who signed provided a different address then their voter registration record, Holmes said.

The lack of beer and wine licenses in the county's unincorporated areas hurts the Navajo Dam economy, Taylor said, and it affects vacations of out-of-town guests. Small restaurants can't afford full liquor licenses, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. And his clients want to have a drink with their meal after a day of fishing.

"People come here from all over the world to fly fish in San Juan County, and they can get a nice meal, but they can't have a beer or a glass of wine with it," Taylor said.

Taylor said he plans to spend the next few days collecting the necessary signatures before Tuesday's deadline.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.