LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - In a 4 to 3 vote, the Las Cruces City Council voted to approve a resolution in support of a state bill that would completely alter the landscape of liquor licensing in New Mexico.
"It will be chaos," said Marci Dickerson, who owns the Game and the Game II. "I promise you."
If passed, the state bill would allow establishments with a license to sell beer and wine to also sell hard liquor produced in New Mexico. It has not yet gone before the legislature.
"We paid for a privilege," Dickerson said. "If we open up the floodgates and allow everyone to have that privilege, the economic theory behind that is naturally- those licenses will decrease in value."
The price varies because the number of full liquor licenses are limited in New Mexico: One owner must buy a license from another owner. However, the beer and wine licenses are always available, the mayor told ABC-7.
"These businesses have invested a lot of money, countless hours, and made many sacrifices to obtain these licenses," said Joe Hernandez, who said he has worked for 22 years for the locally-owned Pic Quik convenience stores.
According to the city's policy analyst, 55 percent of businesses who have hard liquor licenses are corporations, like Applebee's. City councilors say opening up the playing field to restaurants who can't afford the licenses would help the local economy.
"I think this is a really important economic toolbox, or tool to have in the toolbox that we can't ignore," said Councilor Gabriel Vasquez, who represents district three.
However, many owners of local bars say the value of their licenses will plummet, forcing the banks to call their loans.
"Financial institutions will show up in mass," Dickerson said. "They will start calling liquor licenses. It will take apart every single piece of the economy in the state of New Mexico having to do with this industry."
Others said the state does not have the resources to police the hundreds of new businesses who would have the capability to sell hard liquor.
"You need to look at how this affects citizens," said Shelly Nichols-Shaw, a Las Cruces resident. "As being someone who has been hit, head-on by a drunk driver, do we really need more places that have liquor?"