FARMINGTON — A Navajo Dam business has gathered enough signatures to force San Juan County to hold a special election for residents to vote on whether or not restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county can serve beer and wine with food.
Fisheads San Juan River Lodge -- a business that operates a restaurant, lodge and fly-fishing guide service -- petitioned the county to hold the election. Chris Taylor, the owner and lead guide, wants to sell beer and wine at the restaurant. He said his clients expect to be able to drink a beer after a long day on the river.
Taylor collected a total of 2,044 verified signatures, San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said. To force an election, the petition needed 1,945 signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters in unincorporated San Juan County.
Taylor submitted 2,616 signatures on Sept. 11. But the clerk's office discarded 893 signatures, primarily because they had invalid addresses, Holmes said.
Taylor collected additional signatures over the weekend and submitted them on Tuesday to complete the petition.
Only residents of unincorporated areas were allowed to sign the petition, and only those residents will get to vote in the election.
A beer and wine license allows a restaurant to sell beer and wine as long as alcohol doesn't account for more than 40 percent of sales. Restaurants with those types of licenses also have to follow other regulations, such as closing by 11 p.m., said Thaddeus Cano, Fisheads general manager.
Residents of each county and city in New Mexico must hold an election to determine if beer and wine licenses will be allowed.
Residents in unincorporated San Juan County have never approved the licenses. Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield voters have approved the licenses in their cities.
The licenses cost $1,050, plus a $200 application fee. They are much cheaper than a full-scale liquor license, which can cost more than $250,000 in New Mexico.
"I think (beer and wine licenses are) important for the whole county," Taylor said. "It's difficult for a restaurant to make money without selling beer and wine."
Taylor said bringing beer and wine licenses to all unincorporated areas could lead to more upscale restaurants throughout the county.
By submitting the petition with enough valid signatures, the county commission will have to call for a special election for residents of unincorporated San Juan County within 75 days, Holmes said.
"Judging from the people who signed the petition, I think it's going to pass," Taylor said. "We ran into very few people who didn't want to sign the petition."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.