Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Zia Club officer confident in license


September 9, 2020

Ron Warnick

A mail truck rolls by Saturday morning in front of the former Cooper's Cleaners building in the 400 block of South Second Street in Tucumcari. The Tucumcari Zia Club is leasing part of the building and is seeking a liquor license there as a special-events center.

One of the officers of the Tucumcari Zia Club that's applied for a liquor license for the former Cooper's Cleaners building expressed confidence the club would be granted that license and the club would be an asset to the community.

The application for a liquor license at 428 S. Second St. by the Tucumcari Zia Club was made public during a recent Tucumcari city commission meeting. Two neighbors complained to the commission about what the license could mean with late-night music or drunken driving.

The Zia Club was formed in 2015 to support the annual New Mexico Music Showcase festival in Tucumcari, said one of its officers, Jerry Joe Lopez. Matt Bednorz and Benjie Torres also are listed as officers.

"We established the Tucumcari Zia Club to promote New Mexico Hispanic music in the eastern side of the state. That's our biggest mission - to keep the culture alive," Lopez said during a phone interview last week.

Lopez said the Zia Club used the hall owned by the Knights of Columbus-St. Anne's Council 6937 for shows. Many of the 73 dues-paying Zia Club members also were K of C members.

When the Tucumcari Knights of Columbus encountered financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic and sold its Main Street hall to a buyer from Albuquerque, Lopez said he recalled saying to colleagues: "Let's restart the Tucumcari Zia Club."

The club approached city commissioner Ralph Moya, who owned the Cooper's Cleaners building across the street from his Professional Counseling Associates office, about leasing the space to launch another events venue.

"They said they wanted to continue doing good community services," Moya recalled during a phone interview.

"We were looking for a place, and that opportunity came up," Lopez said.

Those who wish to protest the potential liquor license must write to the Alcohol and Gaming Division on or before Sept. 13. Complaints would be forwarded to the city, which then would schedule public hearings on the license within 45 days before voting whether to approve it. That means the Tucumcari Zia Club could open as soon as November.

Lopez said the Zia Club would not be a full-time bar.

"This is a special-events place," he said. "We don't want it open seven days a week. We just want to use it for member fundraising, member nights and gatherings, burger nights ... something to offer back to the community. We're not going to be a strip club. We applied for (the liquor license) so when we host an event that's going to require alcohol, we want to do it the legal way."

Lopez said alcohol sales at the Knights of Columbus Hall didn't cause problems, and he predicted the same for the Zia Club.

"When we ran the Columbus Club, not once did a DUI ever come out of that club," he said. "Not once did anyone ever vandalize anyone's property."

If pressed, Lopez indicated he would make the case to the city commission it has no legal grounds to turn down the license because the entire block is zoned commercial.

"If we don't get the liquor license granted, that doesn't prevent us from playing music until 2 in the morning," he said. "We don't need that permission. It's zoned for a commercial business. We qualify for that.

"My spiel is I'm going to tell them: 'You guys are claiming you want Tucumcari to boom and to promote business. This is going to be another business that's going to contribute to the gross receipts tax - not just to the state, but to the local level.'"

As for parking, Lopez said the club would use a seldom-used lot north of Ace Hardware. He said the store's manager would submit a statement to the commission that the business supports the Zia Club using those parking spaces.

Moya said building "is ready to open at any time" for the Zia Club. The club would have about 6,000 square feet.

Moya said another part of the building would be used to store his classic cars, and another space likely would be used for training personnel for his counseling business.

Moya said investors who wanted a medical marijuana growing facility and dispensary in the building approached him, but he told them other locations in town would be "more suitable" for such a venture. He also said state law forbids a bar and a pot dispensary in the same building.

Lopez said the recent sale of the Knights of Columbus building cleared the now-inactive council's debt, with more than $10,000 left over. He said the money would be used for community programs, with the hope local businesses would provide more money for those.

Lopez said with the help of the state Knights of Columbus organization fostering talks with the Rev. Johnpaul Afuecheta of St. Anne's Catholic Church, he said it's likely the Tucumcari chapter will re-emerge as a parish-based council soon.

"The talks are moving pretty aggressively now," he said. "It looks like the first of the year is going to be the target date."


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