RATON, NM (KRQE) — It has been about six months since the state enacted sweeping changes to New Mexico’s liquor laws. The changes have a big impact on businesses in a New Mexico city that typically has to compete with a bordering state.
Having a full liquor license was a luxury few small businesses could afford. “Especially in a small community like ours…having to come up with between $300 and $500,000 just for a liquor license, it was again almost unreal,” Maurice Lemus, owner of Casa Lemus Inn and Restaurant, told Raccoon. “There were very, very few facilities that even offered only beer and wine before.”
In a town fueled by I-25 travelers from Texas to Arizona, Lemus said drivers looking to relax for the night would often choose to drive another 20 miles to Trinidad, Colorado, where there were more traffic. places to have a drink. “By the time Trinidad is 100% full in all its hotels, Raton will still only be 60-70% full. They are always sold before us,” Lemus said.
However, that all started to change in July when new changes to the liquor law came into effect. The law partially reduces prices for a full liquor license from around $300,000 to around $10,000. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham mentioned Lemus by name in her state of the state address using her businesses as an example of how change is helping business owners across New Mexico.
“Having this available now for our community now, we will continue and serve people who travel again,” Lemus said. He says the vast majority of his customers now opt for a cocktail with their meals and he and other business owners in Raton are happy to be able to afford to serve customers what they are looking for. “I think the community as a whole will benefit, by far, even more,” Lemus said.
He says Raton businesses are hoping for a busy summer tourist season after two slow years due to the pandemic.