It’s last call for minis in New Mexico.

The sale of miniature bottles of liquor for off-site consumption will be prohibited beginning July 1 under a sweeping liquor law reform measure Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law last week.

The prohibition applies only to bottles containing 3 ounces or less. Those small bottles of booze, commonly referred to as minis, will still be available in hotel minibars, at golf courses and on airplanes. The difference? In those locations, they’re sold to be consumed on-site, not to-go.

“They’re bad,” Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said Tuesday. “They’re convenient if you want to take a miniature, you know, into the movie theater or whatever. But for the most part, they lead to poor public health outcomes.”

The statewide ban on minis will go into effect nearly six years after the Santa Fe City Council passed a proposal to outlaw the sale within city limits as part of an anti-littering initiative. A judge struck down the city’s ordinance six months later, saying alcohol laws are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state.

Santa Fe City Councilor Signe Lindell, who spearheaded the proposed citywide ban, said she believed back then that minis “weren’t good for our community” and her views haven’t changed.

“Miniatures are made for drinking in that moment, and I think that an awful lot of them are consumed in vehicles and then tossed out the window,” she said.

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Discarded mini bottles lie near the Rail Trail on Tuesday.

Lindell said “an official at the Roundhouse” she declined to identify alerted her about House Bill 255 via text.

“You’re vindicated,” the unidentified official texted Lindell, who said she had “no idea” what the text was in reference to until she heard the details.

The ban on minis came somewhat as a surprise. In fact, a couple of liquor store owners and managers in Santa Fe said they were unaware miniatures had been outlawed.

The ban was introduced as a Senate floor amendment in the final days of the 60-day legislative session by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque. Lopez said she brought the amendment forward as an effort to curb drunken driving in New Mexico.

“I was in the Legislature in 1998 when we banned drive-up liquor windows,” she said. “We may have banned drive-up liquor windows, but gas stations are still selling liquor, so you still have the opportunity to go put your gas, buy some booze, sit in your car and pop it open and there you go.”

Lopez expects the liquor industry will figure out a way to get around the ban, perhaps by increasing the size of small bottles of booze.

“At least for now, the minis are gone,” she said.

Mark Rhodes, an Albuquerque attorney and lobbyist for the New Mexico Packaged Liquor Association, said most operators don’t see the ban on minis “as something that will have significant impact on how they conduct business.”

The bigger impact, he said, might be on the consumer.

“I had clients during the session that were explaining to me that some people that have drinking problems will buy a mini to get through the morning or the afternoon or the day,” he said. “If they’re forced to buy larger quantities, which is what’s going to happen, they’ll buy more liquor. They’ll buy a half pint or even larger.”

Rhodes added a lot of operators are “not particularly upset” about the ban “because the cleanup of minis sometimes in parking lots is significant.”

“Whatever benefit a lot of licensees get from the sale may in part be offset by the cleanup because minis is a natural for people to drink in their car” and throw it out the window, he said.

The ban is part of a larger alcohol reform bill that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Saturday called a “monumental effort.”

The new law permits home delivery not just by restaurateurs but retailers, dispensers, craft distillers, winegrowers and small brewers. It also allows new restaurateurs to purchase more affordable $10,000 alcohol licenses and removes a 300-foot restriction from a school or a church for those types of licenses — all part of an effort to open the market up to smaller businesses. Sunday restrictions on liquor sales also were lifted in the legislation.

In addition to the ban on minis, another amendment prohibits the sale of hard liquor at gas stations in McKinley County, which historically has faced alcohol-related problems.

During a news conference with top-ranking Democrats in the state House of Representatives last week, Maestas said the state had made “tremendous, tremendous strides forward” in New Mexico’s liquor laws with regard to public safety and economic growth.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(17) comments

R. Phalange

Drunk driving and littering are both significant problems in NM and from a public health and environmental standpoint addressing both concerns should be a priority. That being said, this law will do little to curb either. When is the last time you saw a story of a drunk driver with a bunch of minis in his/her vehicle? Those folks are drinking at home/restaurants/bars or from full bottles and they will continue to do so. For responsible drinkers, we purchase minis as gifts or to sample a particular type of liquor without committing to a full bottle. Legislating for poor behavior conducted by a small minority of consumers is bad lawmaking.

Lynn k Allen

In Spain DWI convictions lose their drivers license FOR LIFE!

We need to get serious & convict those potential DWI killers.

Drive without a drivers license should be mandatory 8 years in jail for endangering the public.

Get serious about DRUNK DRIVERS!

Protect us from them.

zach miller

hah I think it is hilarious that one person tries to make it seem like "minis" are actually good because alcoholics can buy it, drink it, and then not be tempted by drinking more, since they are out of booze. If the alcoholic wants help, they should get it, and not in the form of "minis," in the form of real help. If they are going to buy the bottle then they aren't really in the mood for seeking out help, regardless of size. And for everyone else, who just likes the bottles, you can enjoy them places where they are still on-site. I really hope this helps stop the accumulation of waste, at least as much as it seems.

Jitty Bap

... not only that, the same industry lobbyist said it was NATURAL for minis to be consumed in the car. [huh] with friends like there’s, who needs enemies?

Chris Mechels

Doing this as a Floor Amendment to HB255 sucks. Bills should be discussed in Committee with action taken there, with provision for adequate input from those affected.

SB375, which destroys NM police training, also got a disastrous floor amendment, by Moe Maestas.

Our Legislature seems more like a gang of thieves than representatives of the peoples interests and protector of our rights.

Perhaps we need a training academy for Legislators??? And, we need to ban Attorneys from serving in the Legislator, as by their training they have no respect for our laws.

zach miller

I don't think committee should control statewide debate. Having a panel of 5-7 people deciding what gets debated and what does not only benefits those who pay for the campaigns of the 5-7 people.

Daniel Valdez

Don't look now, but you just made a darn good argument for keeping the electoral college.

Jeff Clark

Hallelujah. I am so tired of picking up these little empties off our roads and streets.

Sasha Pyle

One of the *worst* uses of single-use plastic, and that’s saying something!

Khal Spencer

I see these mini bottles littering the roads all over the place. Good riddance!

Dan, there is a limit to government running our lives. Yep, there is an alcohol problem, a drug problem, a poor education problem, an obesity problem, and a sedentary behavior problem. At some point, people are responsible for their own behavior. I don't want the State Police checking my grocery bag for too much red meat or ice cream or Michelle monitoring my weekly exercise hours. At least if people want to get booze, they won't have to drive. Thus, maybe cutting our greenhouse gas emissions...only half kidding here.

Mike Johnson

So let me get this straight, you can't buy a mini for offsite consumption, but if you drink it while in the place you bought it, it is OK? Oh, that's gonna work really well, what could go wrong? No litter, but lots more drunk drivers leaving the places that sell them......

Margaret Eyler

Once again, the legislation gets hyper focused on the trees instead of the great big forest that is: WHY and in what way are New Mexicans struggling so much that the government have to make more rules/restrictions to try to "help" people???

There are SO many broken people here, and we should be focusing on big-picture solutions to actually cure their ails.

Can you imagine if the state came down hard on homelessness, for example, and started detaining people who were in possession of illegal substances, sleeping in the open, burning open campfires on Alameda, panhandling....breaking ANY of the rules the rest of us have to follow. And put those folks in facilities that were NOT prisons, but instead comprehensive rehab/psychiatric programs that set people up top get clean and get back on their feet? An expensive proposition but I would be so proud of our state if they were leaders in that way.

Or, more DUI checkpoints everywhere? They would catch gazillions of people! Again, you don't just throw people in jail...you make sure they are detained in a place that treats their issues for the long term.

Let's get real people, we can innovate and do better than this for future generations!

Leila Salim

this was largely a deregulation bill. it only added that mini ban at the very end.

Kenneth Chaney

Yes. Why don't they just legalize pot, heroin and meth. Spread the pain and misery around. There are plenty of used needles laying by those mini bottles.

Dan Frazier

I started out feeling overjoyed by this article. No more minis! Hooray! I see so many of the mini bottles littering road-sides. This bill could greatly reduce the amount of litter.

But by the time I got to the end of the article I felt sad. Loosening alcohol restrictions and making it easier for people to sell alcohol is the last thing New Mexico needs!

According to the ibis Web site (New Mexico's Indicator Based Information System, which monitors New Mexico's health), "The consequences of excessive alcohol use are severe in New Mexico. New Mexico's total alcohol-related death rate has ranked first, second, or third in the US since 1981; and 1st for the period 1997 through 2010 (the most recent year for which state comparison data are available). The negative consequences of excessive alcohol use in New Mexico are not limited to death but also include domestic violence, crime, poverty, and unemployment, as well as chronic liver disease, motor vehicle crash and other injuries, mental illness, and a variety of other medical problems. Nationally, one in ten deaths among working age adults (age 20-64) is attributable to alcohol. In New Mexico this ratio is one in six deaths."

Margaret Eyler

Dan, any time New Mexico de-regulates something in favor of small business, you should rejoice. NM's issue is treating the individuals who need help, not limiting the market for the majority of people who can consume alcohol responsibly. People with problems will ALWAYS find a way to get what they "need". We have to help those people tackle the "need" part.

Daniel Mathews

If you look at per capita consumption, NM is middle of the pack. The higher death rate could be a result of the abuse of alcohol by New Mexicans or other socio-economic factors. Then there is the lack of rehab and behavioral health services. Based on the per capita consumption being middle of the pack but outcomes being much worse, I would conclude that there is a segment of New Mexicans who are over consuming as a result of economic or psychological reasons.

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