New Mexico Proposes Stricter Alcohol Licensing Regulations July 14, 2006 » By Megan Gordon
The New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division has proposed the adoption of several new regulations to cut back on alcohol sales to minors and intoxicated customers. The Regulation and Licensing Department held three hearings on the proposed across New Mexico, including one held in Las Cruces on July 6.
Under current regulations, the director of the State Alcohol and Gaming Division can revoke an establishment's liquor license if the business receives five citations in a year for serving alcohol to minors or to intoxicated adults. If the proposed changes are adopted, an establishment could lose its liquor license after four citations in a year for serving alcohol to a minor. Two citations in a year for serving intoxicated customers would result in revocation of an establishment's liquor license. Any combination of four offenses in a year for serving minors or inebriated adults could also result in the loss of a liquor license under the proposal. The proposed regulations would scrap a provision that allows restaurants and bars to contest the results of a blood-alcohol test if a patron registers 0.14 or higher, nearly twice the legal limit to drive of 0.08. Gary Tomada, director of the department's Alcohol and Gaming Division, will decide whether to adopt the regulations.
Support for the New Regulations
Speaking in support of the proposals were many New Mexico law enforcement and government officials, including Captain Williams of the New Mexico State Police. Williams said that on the first Thursday of the 2006 spring semester at NMSU, the New Mexico State Police set up a road block on just one road for five hours, during which they made thirteen DWI arrests.
He also stated that during 2005 there were 620 DWI offenders in the state of New Mexico and over 40 percent of fatal crashes the same year involved alcohol.
Real-life Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Perhaps one of the most powerful testimonies came from a woman who told of her personal experience in a hit and run accident, in which she received a DWI. She spoke of several establishments that would regularly serve her beyond the point of obvious intoxication in the hopes of getting a better tip. She no longer drinks and fully supports any measure that will help reduce the amount of drunk drivers on the road.
A slide show created by the father of Stephen Judd, an NMSU student who died two years ago from alcohol poisoning on his 21st birthday, was shown to the audience. In it, Judd's father spoke of the night his son died; describing how one local establishment had served his son 18 drinks in one hour, despite obvious signs of intoxication, including vomiting. When Judd was admitted to the hospital at 8:30 the morning after, his BAC registered at 0.427.
Opposition to Stricter Enforcement
These proposals have local restaurant, bar, and retail businesses up in arms, many of which voiced their dissent at the public hearing held in Las Cruces.
"I support the regulation to decrease the amount of violations of selling to minors, because that is a clearly identifiable infraction," said Tom Hutchinson, owner of La Posta Restaurant in Mesilla.
He pointed out however, that holding severs and bar tenders accountable for determining when a person has reached a 0.14 level is unfair, since a patron's outward appearance and actions due to intoxication can vary, and it is not always easy to tell when a person has had too much to drink.
Also in opposition was Senator Mary Jane Garcia, who is part-owner of Victoria's Night Club. She argued that with so many different types of businesses, from night clubs to restaurants and convenient stores, the proposed regulations will be very difficult to effectively enforce.
For more information, check out the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division's website at http://www.rld.state.nm.us/agd/