July 1, 2014
Dear New Mexico,
Over two years ago, we came together around our shared dedication to building alternative philanthropic models, specifically those that support New Mexico’s most culturally and economically vital nonprofit arts organizations. We incorporated as Catalyst Club and began work on our first project: ArtBar – a membership-based nonprofit club that would generate grant funds through the sale of alcohol.
At every step, we have felt wholly supported by our colleagues, collaborators and community. Since opening last summer, ArtBar has secured almost 2000 annual members, created 10 new jobs, worked with countless organizational partners and individual artists, hosted hundreds of cultural and entertainment events, cultivated the establishment of a small independent restaurant, and generated a positive presence in the heart of Downtown Albuquerque. We are so grateful to everyone who has been part of making this vision a reality.
And we are incredibly saddened to report that we will be closing ArtBar in July of 2014. The State of New Mexico’s Alcohol & Gaming Department has made it impossible for us to continue this enterprise.
The Alcohol & Gaming Department has issued us two citations in the last six months. The first concerned how our membership program was structured, which we promptly addressed. The second was for advertising (which our nonprofit club liquor license prohibits us from purchasing, a regulation to which we have adhered). The evidence presented by the Alcohol & Gaming Department was a short editorial article in The Weekly Alibi. The new Director of Alcohol & Gaming ultimately decided to uphold this citation as a “warning,” even when advised by our attorney that the editorial was written by an independent third party publication and was not a paid advertisement.
Should the Alcohol & Gaming Department issue a third citation for any reason or at any time within the next twelve months, they can automatically shut us down. They have indicated that this is not a matter of if but when.
At this point, our only alternative is to enter into litigation, but we would still have to cease operations for the duration of that process. This is not a viable option. As volunteers (all of whom have other full-time jobs), we pooled our collective resources and energies for this endeavor, and we are not equipped to engage in a legal battle. We are extremely thankful to our attorney, Morris J. Chavez, Esq., who has donated his time to-date as we have worked to navigate this situation.
ArtBar by Catalyst Club was on track to make noteworthy grants to each of our six inaugural nonprofit recipients and for a strong second year. To close in good standing, our current assets will be allocated to covering our start up and accrued operational costs. We are working closely with partners and supporters to determine how to meet our fiscal responsibilities in a way that aligns with our mission and organizational structure.
We are, of course, upset by the loss of ArtBar and of the beautiful micro-community that blossomed around it. We are most distraught, though, by the circumstances surrounding its closure. New Mexican political leaders profess a commitment to nurturing innovation and development in our state. But frankly, some of the appointees charged with regulatory oversight are standing in the way.
Regulators should work with citizens to ensure compliance with the law and uphold a consistent, objective application of statutes – not apply subjective interpretations in selective cases.
New Mexico is our home. We love our community, especially our arts community, and we always will. We will continue to pursue positive methods of change. And we know that the extraordinary people who have been part of this project over the last two years will do the same.
We also know that many of you will wish to show your support for ArtBar by Catalyst Club – and demonstrate your commitment to building a New Mexico that champions and helps sustain endeavors like ours. Please add your name to our ArtBar Allies Petition for Change, New Mexico: Support Innovation. We Need It. >>
With appreciation and adoration,
ArtBar by Catalyst Club