ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A city councilor is looking ahead to when restaurants and bars can start operating with some dine-in service, wanting to help their bottom line by expanding where they can sell alcohol.
Councilor Brook Bassan is proposing a resolution allowing those businesses to get a temporary permit to let them sell alcohol in their parking lots and other nearby outdoor spaces during the pandemic.
“We need to support our businesses and bars,” Bassan stated. “A lot of these places are not even going to have their parking lots full, and the idea that was proposed to me is, ‘Why can’t we open up part of our parking lot, fence it in with tents and put in an extra 15 people?’”
The resolution is asking the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department to approve special dispenser permits that would let bars and restaurants sell liquor beyond their current licensed floor plan. Businesses would be able to add tables in their parking lots and other outdoor areas, protected by tents or fences.
Terry Keene, who owns Farina Pizzeria and Artichoke Cafe downtown and Farina Alta in the northeast heights, said he’s for it. “If we could get more tables into our parking lot or onto our patio, obviously, then that would be a really good thing to do,” restaurant owner Terry Keene said about his downtown Farina location.
Keene said he’ll need the extra space to increase capacity and keep tables six feet apart to comply with state health guidelines when restaurants are able to offer dine-in service. He adds that it’s not just a good idea to help them put in more tables, but might also encourage people to support local businesses if they feel safer by eating outside.
Other businesses wanting to sell alcohol again still have questions.
“We’re ready to sell alcohol but we also want to do it responsibly, and when you’re serving people outside, it’s up to them to be responsible,” M’Tucci’s Managing Partner Austin Leard added. “Even though we’re liable within our four walls, I’m sure the liability would remain, so that would be the only concern.”
“It can be complex for a restaurant to expand their service,” city Planning Director Brennon Williams said. “What this resolution is seeking to do is see if there’s not a way for the state and the city, or cities, to come up with some plan to build in some flexibility with the limitations and the restrictions that are there so that we can get restaurants back to some semblance of being able to operate and provide services to folks.”
If the state gives the go-ahead, Williams said the city will then decide whether the businesses’ public hearings for these changes can be waived or modified.
“But at the same time, ensuring the public safety considerations are being met,” Williams explained. “For example, if someone’s expanding tables into a parking lot, they’re going to use ten spaces, we want to make sure we’ve got tables in places where we don’t have cars that are backing into tables.”
Of course, businesses that don’t have parking lots or outdoor areas won’t be able to benefit from this resolution, like Keene’s Artichoke Cafe. Bassan said she’s open to ideas to also help those businesses.
The resolution is up for discussion and a vote on June 1.