Curry and Roosevelt counties have been Prohibition-era holdouts for “forever and a day,” says Dennis Lopez, a Roosevelt County commissioner.
But voters in New Mexico’s last two dry counties overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol in unincorporated areas.
More than 53 percent of Roosevelt County residents in Tuesday’s elections voted for the proposal, and 63 percent of Curry County voters backed a similar measure, according to unofficial election results from the Secretary of State’s Office. And two-thirds of Curry County voters also supported allowing beer and wine licenses for restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county.
In the past, only residents of Portales and Clovis could legally buy alcohol in the two otherwise dry counties. Roosevelt County Clerk Stephanie Hicks said the county government is still trying to determine when the new law will take effect.
“We’re part of the Bible Belt — that had a lot to do with it,” said Robert Sandoval, a Curry County commissioner who said he supported the initiative.
“It isn’t really an evil thing. But there are these people who say, ‘Well, my uncle got drunk and gambled his farm away, so I’m against alcohol completely.’ But I had nothing to do with his uncle gambling away his farm.”
Curry County Commission Chairman Chet Spear and other commissioners say the change was long overdue. They said they hope it will spur new restaurants and other businesses outside of Clovis and Portales.
Melrose residents, for example, may one day be able to wet their whistle without having to make the 25-mile trip to Clovis, Spear said.
“The Baptists,” Spear said. “That’s why years and years ago, they didn’t want it, and nobody ever took the initiative to go out and get a petition asking to get it on the ballot because you could drive into town and get alcohol whenever you wanted to.”
Although most voters supported the measures in both counties, hundreds opposed it. That included Clovis City Commissioner Gary Elliott, who said the city and county already have more than enough booze.
“I just don’t think it’s good. There’s just so much of it,” Elliott said. “We have these craft breweries which are going around, and there’s three of them on main street within a hundred feet of the churches.
“It’s just too much of that, and I don’t think it’s needed. There’s a lot of problems that people are having with alcohol.”