Miniature liquor bottles may soon get the boot in Taos County.
County officials have shown interest in banning the sale of alcohol in single-serving 50 milliliter containers known colloquially as “shooters” or “minis.”
The policy is not intended purely as an effort at roadside beautification.
Public health advocates have called for such an ordinance as a means of curbing drunken driving as well as alcohol abuse, and the notion seems to have support from some members of the Taos County Board of Commissioners.
“It is something I personally would like to see created, drafted and presented to the new commission sometime next year,” Chairman Gabriel Romero said during a presentation by the drug and alcohol group Taos Alive on Dec. 23.
Romero and Tom Blankenhorn are the only sitting members of the five-person board who will serve in 2015.
Blankenhorn said a ban seems like a good idea, but he would like to see additional evidence about the potential efficacy of such an ordinance before reaching a final decision.
If a ban could be effective in addressing alcohol abuse, Blankenhorn, said the county’s Board of Commissioners has an obligation to consider it.
If incoming commissioners Jim Fambro, Mark Gallegos and Candyce O’Donnell are receptive, the move would represent a more hands-on, regulatory approach to alcohol abuse than that taken by the outgoing commission.
Other county officials have indicated such a ban is a policy whose time has come.
Taos County DWI Program Coordinator Herbert Valdez told The Taos News he believes banning the sale of miniature liquor bottles could help curb drunken driving.
The move also would cut access to a cheap source of liquor that public health advocates say is popular with local youth.
“They’re cheap, they’re easy to steal,” Julie Martinez of Taos Alive told commissioners during a Dec. 2 meeting, noting a survey of local youths in 2013 found 47.6 percent of Taos High School youths who drink alcohol said liquor was their beverage of choice. That compared with 16.9 percent who said beer and 14.6 percent who said flavored malt.
The results suggest more attention should be paid to reducing access to hard liquor, Martinez argued.
It is unclear whether retailers and distributors would swallow such a measure.
A spokesperson for Western Refining, which operates Giant gas stations, did not take a position on a ban but said it would put the company in a “difficult position.”
“We want to be a good neighbor and be part of the community,” Gary Hanson said recently. “Part of that is meeting the demands of our customer base.”
State law allows for banning miniature liquor bottles, according to a spokesperson for the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Division, the agency responsible for liquor licenses.
For now, there is no reason for drinkers to stock up.
While County Manager Stephen Archuleta said this week commissioners are likely to consider a ban in the new year, County Attorney Bob Malone confirmed an ordinance has not yet been drafted.
This story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of The Santa Fe The New Mexican.