Published Sunday, August 2, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News
BY TROY GOODMAN
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The irony wasn’t lost Friday on most of Gary
Fuller’s customers at the drive-up window of the Last Chance Saloon
& Package Store.
It was the last chance for anybody in New Mexico to buy liquor at
the window. Midnight marked the start of a new state law banning the
sale of alcohol through drive-ups.
“There have been a lot of comments from the customers today,” said
Fuller. “Mostly they’ve said (the ban) is stupid. . . . But they’re
also kind of surprised it finally happened.”
Many New Mexicans were surprised when Gov. Gary Johnson signed the
new law in May. It marked the end of a bitter, four-year struggle
between liquor store owners and lawmakers in the state with the highest
rate of alcohol-related traffic deaths.
Supporters argue it will reduce the state’s abominable
drunken-driving record — the worst in the nation — and reduce the
number of teenagers buying alcohol illegally.
Retailers — about 230 in all — say it will put undue strain on
their businesses and have little to no effect on drunken drivers. They
also say the ban’s enactment was little more than election year
A July 30 letter from the state told drive-up owners that no
products can be sold through the windows, not even non-alcoholic goods
including snacks and cigarettes. Drive-through businesses such as
pharmacies and fast-food restaurants, which do not operate on liquor
licenses, will not be affected.
“Now we can’t even sell lottery tickets or candy or Cokes out of the
window — but look at McDonald’s,” said Chris Southern, owner of a
liquor store in eastern New Mexico.
State regulators and police planned sweeps over the next few days to
enforce the ban. A business caught selling liquor through a window
could be fined $10,000, with second offenses possibly bringing jail
Retailers plan to appeal a court decision upholding the law.
New Mexico is No. 1 in per capita alcohol-related traffic deaths,
with 11.79 deaths per 100,000 people in 1996, the last year for which
figures were available. That’s 19 percent higher than Mississippi, the
next highest state.