FARMINGTON, N.M. -- Voters in New Mexico's Four Corners region are set to decide whether restaurants in unincorporated San Juan County can sell beer and wine with food.
The election Tuesday comes after Chris Taylor, the owner of Fisheads San Juan River Lodge, a fly-fishing guide service in Navajo Dam that also operates a restaurant and lodge, collected enough signatures to force the county to bring the issue before voters, the Farmington Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/ImzNri ).
If voters approve the measure, to qualify for a license, 60 percent of a restaurant's gross receipts would have to come from the sale of food.
Taylor said restaurants need beer and wine licenses to be successful in unincorporated areas.
"The immediate effect (beer and wine licenses) would have would help me and help the lodge," Taylor said. "But in a few years I'd really feel good about what I did if other people applied for them, and people wouldn't have to go to Farmington to get something to eat."
The lack of beer and wine licenses in the county's unincorporated areas hurts the Navajo Dam economy, Taylor said, and it affects vacations of out-of-town guests. Small restaurants can't afford full liquor licenses, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. And his clients want to have a drink with their meal after a day of fishing.
But some critics worry that increased alcohol sales may hurt a region battling high rates of drunken driving and alcohol abuse.
San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said 233 voters already cast ballots in early voting as of Tuesday.
"I'd like to see those that can get out and vote," Holmes said.
Voters include residents of Navajo Nation communities, even though beer and wine licenses would not be allowed on the reservation if the measure passes.