- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - Bethel has collected over a quarter of a million dollars in alcohol sales taxes since a pizza shop sold the city’s first beer in more than four decades earlier this year.

Fili’s Pizza and AC Quick Stop have paid Bethel more than $277,000 this year in alcohol taxes, with the liquor store contributing the majority of the funds. Another liquor store recently opened, but its sales weren’t included, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/2e2PG66).

AC Quick Stop opened in May and has paid nearly $272,000 in alcohol taxes. The pizza shop has paid about $5,000 under the 12 percent alcohol sales tax since selling its first beer in April.

The two vendors have made nearly $2.4 million combined since the city’s first legal alcohol sales.

Bethel’s police chief and other city officials had voiced concerns about approving liquor licenses, saying easy access to alcohol would increase crime in the community of about 6,200 people in southwest Alaska.

“We were really expecting to see a real significant uptick,” Bethel District Attorney Michael Gray said. “And so far, in terms of the cases referred to us, we just haven’t seen it.”

However, Gray said the villages are a different matter, and that he suspects legal sales may have caused a spike in crime there.

“In August and September we were noticing a significant uptick in the referrals for sexual assaults in the river villages. I can’t say that that’s related but I certainly suspect that it may be,” Gray said.

The Association of Village Council Presidents recently passed a resolution condemning the effect of alcohol sales on the villages.

Some of the revenue generated from alcohol sales should go toward the Bethel Police Department to help make a positive difference in the community, Gray said.

“For years they’ve been understaffed, they have a hard time. Bethel’s a hard town to recruit people to come and live in,” he said.

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


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