Because of the limited number of licenses, they commonly go for $500,000 a pop or more—a prohibitively large sum for would-be new business owners.
"I have friends that researched possibly opening a [liquor] store in New Mexico or in Santa Fe proper, and when they did their research, they found out they could get a liquor license in Texas for literally a small fraction of what it costs here," Campbell says.
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website, a two-year packaged liquor retailer in Texas pays $1,500. By contrast, a recent packaged liquor license sold in New Mexico cost $750,000, according to the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division. Retailers and bars pass that price on to consumers.
"If you go to Denver, for instance, you'll find a lot cheaper drink prices," Campbell says. "There's such a limit of these licenses. That's why they're so expensive."
In addition, the third-party liability laws in New Mexico mean an establishment can lose its license by serving an intoxicated person. Once a license is revoked, it is removed from the system, rather than sold to a new business.
"Obviously, we need more bars to open up," Campbell says. "We're losing so many good bars, and they don't seem to be being replaced. Just recently, the one nightclub went out of business and two good concert venues, Corazón and Tin Star, we lost. It makes less people go out—more people will go up to Buffalo Thunder, where they have several bars under one roof, or they'll go down to Albuquerque."
Santa Fe Reporter