NM’s bars, restaurants need support, not higher taxes
As the owner of Nexus Brewery in Albuquerque, I can tell you newly proposed alcohol tax increases are not what New Mexico’s bars and restaurants need right now. I realize our state lawmakers have good intentions, and I commend them for this effort. But there are other ways to achieve the goal; this tax increase will further burden an industry that has already been through so much. Establishments like mine are struggling to cope with the continued economic impacts of inflation, supply chain woes and the remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve been in business here for 12 years. The last three years are like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my career. While safety measures and dining restrictions were implemented to protect public health, they dealt a massive blow to my brewery and restaurant, as well as my friends who’ve worked in the hospitality sector for years. We’re still trying to recover.
New Mexico is a tourism state. Prepandemic, folks came here to experience our state’s natural beauty, unique culture or for any number of events, everything from weddings to festivals. These attractions, and the tourists and locals who attended them, kept establishments like ours busy, but limits on travel stopped us in our tracks.
Although the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the impact on the restaurant industry remains. It will take us years to get back to where we were before.
For my colleagues and me, the uncertainty of the past couple of years has been the hardest to manage. During the height of the pandemic, rules and restrictions would change way too frequently. It was nearly impossible to predict what challenges or restrictions the next day might bring, and it was difficult to make plans to keep the business going.
After that subsided, supply chain issues meant products would be unavailable suddenly. And now it is so hard to find team members.
Added to that, inflation is causing our costs to go up and our customers’ disposable income go down. That’s translated into customers spending less with us, whether that’s trading down to cheaper drinks, shrinking their orders, or visiting less frequently. The end result is fewer sales and tighter margins — which impacts all New Mexicans, not just restaurant owners, but its workers and customers as well.
The new excise taxes on alcohol would make things a whole lot harder. Proponents say this tax increase will help fund certain social programs, but a significant portion of the excise taxes the state already collects just goes into the general fund. Why can’t we reallocate that money instead of creating a brand-new tax increase?
The future of the food and beverage sector is uncertain. The 100,000 folks who make a living at these establishments have been through so much, and with the prospect of a recession on the horizon it feels like things could trend downward again. Jobs and livelihoods are on the line. We won’t go out of business, but I believe this places an unnecessary hardship on everyone.
To truly reform the system and support New Mexico businesses, our legislators need to slow down, find another way to fund this objective and listen to what we have to say. We need your support, not higher alcohol taxes.