By this time next month, the City of Gallup will no longer allow the sale of package liquor early in the morning in the hopes that police will get a few hours of reprieve from dealing with drunks.
Currently, stores within city limits can start selling booze as early as 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The Gallup City Council approved a new ordinance Tuesday evening that pushes that start time to 10 a.m.
“So you can only buy (package liquor) 16 hours a day, so we’re not crimping on anybody’s style, but it’ll allow the police department to catch their breath,” City Attorney George Kozeliski said.
Deputy Police Chief Franklin Boyd said it’s no secret that the department is busy picking up intoxicated individuals. The department has a unit that takes people who are too drunk to care for themselves to the detox center for protective custody.
“Pushing the hours back would obviously give us tremendous relief for our officers and overtime and wear-and-tear of units,” Boyd said. “It would help a lot, to say the least.”
Kozeliski clarified the change only impacts package liquor sales — not bars or restaurants. He said a restaurant owner came to him with concerns about customers who might want a bloody mary in the morning, but liquor by the drink will remain unaffected.
The new ordinance was made possible by the state Legislature and governor earlier this year. They amended the state’s liquor law to give Gallup and McKinley County control over restricting liquor sale hours. The way the law is written, the option only applies here — similar to the way the liquor excise tax exists here and nowhere else in the state.
Before it reached the Legislature, Gallup residents showed their support for the idea in a referendum vote in August 2016. City officials then used the results of the election to lobby for the change.
The state Department of Alcohol and Gaming will enforce the new hours. City Manager Maryann Ustick said she talked to Peterson Long, an agent with the state’s Special Investigations Division, and he said he had been receiving questions from business owners about the potential change. He indicated he would be personally responsible for enforcing the new hours and agreed to coordinate education efforts with the city.
Businesses have 30 days to enact the change. Kozeliski recommended the city begin a campaign to inform local business owners via certified letters and newspaper advertisements.
Councilor Linda Garcia asked whether the city’s ordinance would impact the county. Kozeliski said the county has the option to change hours as well, but he talked to County Attorney Doug Decker, who was unsure what the county commission would do.
Ustick said she recently made a presentation to the county and learned that the detox center experiences significant decreases in admissions on Sundays, when alcohol sales are prohibited within city limits. She also learned, however, that the sheriff’s office performs significantly more pickups of drunken persons because the county allows liquor sales on Sundays.
The city council approved the new ordinance with a 4-0 vote. Councilor Allan Landavazo acted as mayor pro tem in Jackie McKinney’s absence. Landavazo did not open the discussion for public comment, but it did not appear that anybody in the council chambers was in opposition to the vote.