By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers
By Tony Parra
PORTALES — A beer and wine license option for restaurants passed six months ago by Portales voters is having little impact.
As of last week, no business owners had applied for the license, which is significantly less expensive than a liquor license but has more state regulations.
One is that a licensed establishment cannot be within 300 feet of a church, school or military installation. In a city with more than 40 churches and eight public school campuses, many restaurants are geographically disqualified.
Vinnie Banda, co-owner of Wagon Wheel, said owners are interested in applying for a license but are unsure if they qualify.
If the measurement is made from property to property, Banda said First Presbyterian Church is within 300 feet. However, he believes the entrances to each may be more than 300 feet apart.
“We would like to be able to offer our customers the option,” Banda said. “We’re checking into it to see if we can.”
Juan Garza, owner of Juanito’s in Portales and Clovis, said he is filling out the paperwork and intends to send in an application next month.
Portales city clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said she received calls from Pizza Hut representatives in January, but has not received any other correspondence regarding a license.
Garza said before the beer and wine licenses were available, it was an unfair advantage for larger restaurants that could afford a liquor license.
“We want to give the customer the option to have it with their meals,” Garza said. “In our restaurant we don’t advertise beer.”
Restaurant owners can pay a one-time fee of $1,050 for the beer and wine license. If a restaurant is granted a license, the owner would pay $250 each year to renew the license, according to Martinez-Terry. Garza said the owners would also pay $250 each year to the Alcohol and Gaming Department of the federal government.
Garza said Juanito’s Restaurant in Portales is more than 560 feet from a church, and added that the Juanito’s location in Clovis has been operating with a beer and wine license for the last five years.
“The perception is that alcohol is going to cause problems,” Garza said. “That’s not the case. There is so much red tape. There are so many regulations involved, many more than those who have a liquor license.”