It seemed like a good suggestion: Break the hyperlink between booze for ingesting and gasoline for driving in McKinley County, which historically has New Mexico’s worst statistics by way of DWI crashes and alcohol-related deaths.
In apply, it has proven you may’t take without any consideration which choice folks will select.
As a result of on this case, at the very least to date, booze is successful.
Since July 1, gross sales of onerous liquor have been banned at McKinley County fuel stations or comfort shops that promote gas. The fuel stations can nonetheless promote beer and wine – however not whiskey, vodka, tequila or different spirits. The ban was imposed by a one-paragraph modification to the sweeping overhaul of state liquor legal guidelines handed by the Legislature in 2020.
The jury’s nonetheless out on whether or not the ban, pushed by Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, helps convey down his county’s tragic DWI numbers. Out there information for January by way of July exhibits 32% of the county’s visitors deaths concerned alcohol – eight fatalities.
However the regulation did have an instantaneous influence on locals and vacationers who need fuel.
No less than three shops in McKinley County have stopped promoting fuel to avoid the ban. It seems that, at the very least for some companies, promoting high-octane alcohol is much more profitable than promoting gasoline.
Selecting to promote spirits over fuel was “a no brainer,” the proprietor of El Sabino retailer stated. He stated his station, about 25 miles south of Gallup close to Zuni Pueblo, makes about $8,000 a day in onerous liquor gross sales however simply $2,000 a day on gasoline. The closest pumps nonetheless are 17 and 21 miles away.
Muñoz commented: “They had been simply actually liquor shops with a fuel pump exterior.” He stated one fuel station within the county sells 80 gallons of vodka a day.
The issue now could be that some of us who’ve trusted rural stations for gas as an alternative of Ketel One are out of luck. A pair who previously crammed up at a “bundle and meals mart” retailer that not sells fuel close to Smith Lake, north of Thoreau, now should drive 54 miles spherical journey for fuel, together with for the husband’s chainsaw, as an alternative of 12 miles. “It isn’t like the top of our life, but it surely’s tremendous inconvenient,” buyer Jennifer Brown stated. “And it didn’t do what it had anticipated it could do.”
The creation of filling station deserts in elements of McKinley County feels like a case of unintended penalties, however Muñoz informed a reporter for Supply New Mexico the fuel stations’ choice to shut “wasn’t sudden.”
He stated it represents a selection homeowners made to place earnings above a vital service. Homeowners say that they’re saving their companies – and the roles they provide – and that liquor is a authorized product prospects ought to have the suitable to purchase.
Muñoz isn’t suggesting he’ll again away from the either-or ban. As an alternative, he stated, he plans to introduce measures within the session that begins in January to impose new restrictions on alcohol gross sales, together with reimposing a ban on Sunday gross sales in McKinley County. “Now we all know what (fuel stations’) principal useful resource for revenue was, and that’s alcohol gross sales,” he stated. “So we will now start to take a look at proscribing these.”
Muñoz does appear to have uncovered simply how vital onerous alcohol gross sales are to some retailers. Weeks after the brand new regulation went into impact, Western Refining Retail LLC sued the state over its “arbitrary” option to ban liquor at fuel stations in simply McKinley County, asserting the lack of spirit gross sales would trigger “extreme financial hardship” for its shops. On the time, the corporate owned 10 Speedway fuel stations within the county. Western Refining has since offered these stations, and new proprietor 7-Eleven withdrew the lawsuit.
Nonetheless, regardless of his greatest intentions to assault drunken driving, Muñoz’s measure is inflicting issues for McKinley County residents who’ve misplaced cheap entry to gas for his or her automobiles, vans and equipment. It’s a troublesome name, however Muñoz must put the either-or regulation in reverse, as a result of the shops he was concentrating on are nonetheless promoting spirits.
In the meantime, there could also be methods to plug service-station gaps. May the Zuni and Navajo tribal governments set up fuel stations in McKinley County close to the place liquor sellers have lined their gas pumps?
It doesn’t matter what occurs subsequent, one factor will stay the identical: There are not any straightforward options to New Mexico’s devastating DWI drawback.
This editorial first appeared within the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper slightly than the writers.