Petitions to call for vote on general Sunday alcohol sales have been unsuccessful in Aztec

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AZTEC — 550 Brewing has become the only business in Aztec to serve alcohol on Sundays through a New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Department exception for small brewers.

The AGD enforces a general ban on Sunday alcohol sales, but includes an exception for winemakers, craft distillers and small brewers, according to information from Aztec Community Development Director Steven Saavedra.

“Sunday sales by the drink and/or package are only permitted in those local option districts in which Sunday sales have been approved by the voter,” regulation information from the AGD states. “The only exceptions are the small manufacturers. … Their Sunday sales by the package or by drink are not subject to local option district elections.”

The exception begins when the brewer or winemaker receives permits to operate. Though 550 Brewing opened in December 2016, Sunday sales began only this month because the owners thought the exception only applied to breweries that manufacture on-site, according to one of the family-run brewery’s owners, Mike Paschall.

Paschall said the family brews the beer at home as the brewery gets on its feet in partnership with the Aztec HUB, a business center and incubator, and they are currently making steps toward establishing a manufacturing site and pizza restaurant at 119 N. Main Ave. in Aztec.

When they found out the state’s exception did not exclude taprooms with beer brewed off-site, Paschall said the business re-negotiated their lease with the city to open Sundays.

Though the state department enforces a general ban against Sunday alcohol sales, citizens can request that their city government hold a special election for voters to decide whether to allow the general sale of alcohol on Sundays, Saavedra said.

There have been attempts over the past few years to gather enough signatures and file a petition necessary to start the special election process, but Saavedra said no petitions have met the requirements for the city commission to consider an election.

Aztec City Clerk Karla Sayler said a successful petition has 90 days to collect the signatures of 10 percent of the city’s registered voters. For Aztec, that means 371 signatures, based off 2016 voter registration, and signers must live and be registered to vote in the city in order to be considered valid.

Sayler said she’d seen two petitions for Sunday sales in her six years as city clerk. The most recent was filed in late 2017, but was not submitted by deadline.

Randy Hodge, who owns Rubia's Fine Mexican Dining and Ruby’s in the Valley, said that he supported a petition that asked for a city election four or five years ago, but it didn’t get enough valid signatures to continue to the city commission.

However, he said he still supports the concept.

“Anything that generates interest and activity for business in Aztec is going to be an asset,” Hode said.

The brewery opened for Sunday alcohol sales for the first time on April 7, Kara Paschall, another of the brewery’s owners, said.

“It went really well,” Paschall said on April 12 at the taproom. “For me, better than expected for being a first Sunday.”

The taproom sold 93 beers and two glasses of wine on April 7, Paschall said.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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