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Jal approves restaurant beer, wine sales

In their first mail-in ballot special election, Jal voters have narrowly approved beer and wine sales in restaurants for on-premises consumption only.

Election officials in the Lea County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday counted 152 “yes” votes and 139 “no” votes. The tally is considered unofficial until the Lea County Commission canvasses the election on July 18.

The election with 52% in favor allows the city to issue beer and wine permits in the near future.

City Manager Matt White said there currently are only two restaurants in the city that likely will apply for a license, but there remain a series of legal hoops for the restaurateurs to jump through before they are allowed to serve alcohol with meals.

“This just allows them to apply for the permit,” White said. “Now, they’ve got a six- or eight-month period to get permits. They have to train their employees. The state has to come down and inspect their building. There’s a lot of stuff they have to go through to make that happen.”

By state law, a restaurant with a beer and wine license must make the majority of its sales in food, not alcohol.