By Ryn Gargulinski
A Tucumcari bartender was arrested Dec. 29 for selling alcohol to a minor, according to a release from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
Officials said a female bartender at Tucumcari’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Club not only allowed non-members into the establishment but also sold an alcoholic beverage to a minor.
They said the bartender was arrested and administrative citations against the establishment are pending.
The underage drink patron at the VFW was actually an undercover minor working in concert with the DPS’ Special Investigations Division, the release said.
Selling or serving alcohol to a minor is a fourth-degree felony, according to state law, with a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to 18 months in prison.
The bartender, Debbie Lopez, spent one night in jail, according to her daughter and fellow VFW bartender Angela Lopez.
“We went and got her out the next day. She’s never been in jail before. It was an honest mistake,” Angela Lopez said.
“She’s an older lady and didn’t have her glasses. She thought the ID said 1981 and it said 1987.”
Angela Lopez said the bar has not been closed, the VFW did not lose its liquor license and her mother did not lose her job.
“She starts again Sunday,” Angela Lopez said. “She’s just gotta wear her glasses and be a lot more aware.”
The arrest in Tucumcari was the result of a three-day Underage Compliance Operation conducted by the Special Investigations Division in Quay, Guadalupe and Curry counties, which resulted in the arrest of four people in eastern New Mexico, according to DPS.
According to the release, the three other arrests included one in Santa Rosa and two in Clovis.
The release said administrative citations will be issued to each establishment that sold an alcoholic beverage to a minor and will include other liquor law violations.