FARMINGTON — Voters next week will decide whether restaurants in unincorporated San Juan County can sell beer and wine with food.

The San Juan County local option district election is Tuesday. Wednesday is the last day for early voting.

The election will determine if the state of New Mexico can issue beer and wine licenses -- also called restaurant licenses -- to restaurants in unincorporated areas.

Earlier this year, Chris Taylor, the owner of Fisheads San Juan River Lodge, a fly-fishing guide service in Navajo Dam that also operates a restaurant and lodge, collected enough signatures to force the county to hold the election.

If voters approve the measure, to qualify for a license, 60 percent of a restaurant's gross receipts would have to come from the sale of food. Beer and wine could only be served with a meal by a waiter, and the restaurant would have to close by 11 p.m., according to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department website.

The licenses cost $1,050 per year, and there is a $200 application fee.

Taylor collected 2,044 valid signatures during a petition drive this year. Five percent of registered voters in unincorporated areas -- or 1,945 people -- needed to sign the petition to force an election, according to county records.

Last year, Taylor requested the county commission to call for the election, but commissioners denied the request. Instead, Taylor petitioned for the election.

Taylor said restaurants need beer and wine licenses to be successful in unincorporated areas. He said he could see business owners in Flora Vista and Kirtland applying for them, too.

"The immediate effect (beer and wine licenses) would have would help me and help the lodge," Taylor said. "But in a few years I'd really feel good about what I did if other people applied for them, and people wouldn't have to go to Farmington to get something to eat."

San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said 233 voters already cast ballots, as of Tuesday morning. Residents of unincorporated areas, including the Navajo Nation, can vote in the election.

"I'd like to see those that can get out and vote," Holmes said.

She said 62 people cast a ballot at the clerk's office in Aztec, 15 people have voted early at McGee Park and there were 156 absentee ballots.

The election will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. There are 10 voting convenience centers throughout the county.

Holmes estimated the election will cost $50,000 to $55,000.

WHERE TO VOTE

Central Consolidated School District’s business office, south of U.S. Highway 64, Shiprock

Newcomb Fire Station, N.M. #56 U.S. Highway 491, Newcomb

Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center, 583 Road 6100, Kirtland

La Plata Community Center, 1438 N.M. Highway 170, La Plata

San Juan County Multi-Agency Building, 7450 E. Main St., Farmington

McGee Park, 41 Road 5568, Farmington

Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center, 583 Road 6100, Kirtland

Blanco Fire Station, 7372 U.S. Highway 64, Blanco

Dzilth Na O Dith Hle Fire Station, 45 miles south of Bloomfield on U.S. Highway 550

Bloomfield Cultural Center, 333 S. First St., Bloomfield

Cedar Hill Fire Station, 4 Road 2343, Cedar Hill

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.