By Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2015

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - A Bethel Native Corp. subsidiary is seeking to open a local liquor store, using part of a new supermarket that just closed.

Bethel Spirits LLC is in the process of applying for a license to put a liquor store in the facility that was vacated last week by the Swanson’s grocery store, Bethel radio station KYUK (https://is.gd/iGWsE9) reported. The application is expected to be submitted in April to the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Local legal sales of alcohol have the support of Bethel Mayor Rick Robb.

“You can regulate it. We can raise revenue,” Robb said. “We can reduce harm, because you don’t sell to children, you don’t sell it to those under 21.”

Opponents include Lower Kuskokwim School District Board Chair Susan Murphy, who said she fears parents would spend money on alcohol instead of food and clothing for their children.



Murphy plans to take her opposition to the Bethel City Council, which can protest applications and, in certain cases, can prevent the issuance of a license. Allowing liquor sales in Bethel would be an expense to the financially strained state because of the increased social services and law enforcement that would result, Murphy said.

“We’re looking at cuts to the education budget, public radio’s looking at cuts, senior citizens are looking at cuts in their budget,” she said. “It’s a ridiculous time to bring up the idea of opening a liquor store in Bethel.”

During the past four decades, there have been attempts to change alcohol laws in Bethel, a hub community for numerous villages that ban alcohol altogether. Bethel had bars and a liquor store before the early 1970s.

In 2009, voters in Bethel eliminated a local-option law that prohibited the sale of alcohol and set importation limits. In an advisory vote the next year, Bethel residents rejected five types of liquor sales. The City Council protested liquor license applications filed by businesses, prompting application rejections by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Residents currently can possess alcohol in homes after it is delivered by air carriers.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

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