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FARMINGTON — Small, empty liquor bottles are not uncommon sights, littering the ground in many parts of Farmington. Mayor Nate Duckett hopes to change that.

Duckett recently asked City Attorney Jennifer Breakell if the city could pass an ordinance to ban the sale of those miniature liquor bottles.

His request, made during the May 14 City Council meeting, comes a few months after a Farmington resident showed up at a City Council meeting with a bag full of miniature liquor bottles he had picked up while walking near Ladera Elementary School.

The Farmington City Council supported Duckett’s request to look into the legality, but Councilor Sean Sharer expressed some skepticism.

“Is banning the sale of a product going to stop the behavior? I don’t think so,” Sharer said.

He said he is “up in the air” about whether he would support a ban, but he would like more information about it.

Ban hasn't worked elsewhere

Banning those miniature liquor bottles from being sold would likely be a hard battle for the city to win, according to Ruben Baca, New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association state executive. The Petroleum Marketers Association lobbies for convenience stores.

“It will be challenged in court and they’ll lose,” Baca said.

He said Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the past have tried to limit sales of miniature bottles.

In December 2007, Albuquerque notified retailers it would start issuing violations if they sold bottles of alcohol containing 16 fluid ounces or less within 500 feet of schools, religious institutions, residential neighborhoods, designated Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas or city-owned parks and open spaces.

A group of retailers, including Circle K stores, sued Albuquerque. Court documents state the regulations essentially limited the locations where the products could be sold to “few to none.”

The City of Santa Fe was sued a few years later, in 2015, when it attempted to ban the sale of single miniature liquor bottles.

In both cases, the court ruled that the sales are governed through the Liquor Control Act and cities cannot pass ordinances or zoning codes restricting the sales.

A slippery slope

Baca said the only way to ban the sale is if the city could lobby the Legislature to amend the Liquor Control Act.

Baca said the Petroleum Marketers Association opposes banning those products because it could lead to a slippery slope that would lead to banning other alcohol products as well.

“That’s not the answer to DWI,” Baca said, referencing driving while intoxicated.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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