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.
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.