Why Aren't More Restaurants In Downtown Las Cruces?

Aug 3, 2013

According to Las Cruces city planner, Andy Hume, the old plan for downtown will be revisited during a series of community meetings called ‘charettes’ planned for October.

One piece of the downtown puzzle that appears to be missing – restaurants.

President of Coas Books, Mike Beckett, has been downtown more than 20 years.

“I know books…I think you’ve certainly gotta have more than one restaurant.”

So why aren’t there more restaurants? Planner Andy Hume says a lot of it comes down to math.

The first question is usually the age of the buildings…we all remember from our microeconomics classes, an increased demand means an increased price.

The price of a liquor license is usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cattle Baron in Lincoln paid $350,000. One Las Cruces business owner paid $325,000.

Allison Kuper Smith lobbies on behalf of the New Mexico restaurant association. She says there’s one way to save money.

“There is a restaurant license…what you an I would call a beer and wine license and that is relatively easy to get…. but the drawback is, it’s only beer and wine.”

So if you want a margarita, you’ll have to find a restaurant that has a full liquor license.

“The beer and wine is a good way to go. The liquor licenses that don’t have package are not as expensive generally speaking…but new Mexico being on a quota system…you can’t get them through the state anymore…so those have to be done in a private sale or lease situation…it is a challenge, but it is doable.”

Beckett was able to weather the storms over the years selling books downtown. Even in that industry, he had to think like a farmer.

“A lot of people don’t realize you have to bring in a lot of income…like a farmer, some years you have nothing and some years you have a lot.”

It appears with high startup costs, well-funded or established businesses would be the ones to lead a restaurant movement downtown, but that’s not for sure. Even so, Kuper Smith has this to say.

“A lot needs to happen down here but it is a chicken and an egg. It’s gonna taker a few restaurants…it may be a year or two before they see the traffic they need to see from downtown.”