Portales restaurant owners petition for Sunday liquor sales

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Cattle Baron bar tender Donovan Finley prepares a lime for a drink Wednesday at the restaurant. The restaurant is one of three in Portales collecting signatures on a petition calling for a vote on whether to continue the prohibition of liquor sales on Sunday.

Argen Duncan

A petition is calling for a vote on Sunday liquor sales in Portales restaurants.

If 5 percent of voters registered in Portales city limits sign the petition, the city will have to hold an election in which voters decide whether to continue the prohibition on Sunday liquor sales at restaurants in Portales.

Cattle Baron Manager Richard Chambers, who started the petition, said the election would affect only restaurants, not liquor or convenience stores.

People can sign the petition at Cattle Baron Steak and Seafood Restaurant, Pizza Hut and Juanito’s Mexican Restaurant Inc.

Chambers said Portales residents who want an alcoholic drink with a meal on Sunday must drive to Clovis, creating competition that doesn’t need to exist for Portales restaurants.

Clovis removed the prohibition on Sunday restaurant liquor sales two years ago.

Cattle Baron’s primary source of income is from food, Chambers said, and the business is doing well despite the difference in liquor laws.

“It’s just every year we as businesses try to increase our sales, and I felt that was an avenue that was hindering our sales on Sunday,” he said.

With help from Juanito’s and Pizza Hut, Chambers has collected about 700 signatures since July 22. He said he needs 350 valid signatures to call for an election, and he plans to turn in 1,000 to make sure he has enough.

City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said once the petition was turned in to her, she would have to verify the signatures. Those who sign must be registered in city limits and sign their name the same way as on their voter registration card.

If enough signatures are valid, Martinez-Terry said, she’ll confer with the county clerk to schedule a special election and bring a resolution to have the election before city council.

Elections cost $6,000 to $8,000. Martinez-Terry said the money wasn’t in her budget because she didn’t expect a special election, but the city would pay for the election if necessary.

In her 30-year career with the city, she said, she’s seen only one other special election.