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Rural Alaska

Alaska Commercial liquor store in Bethel closing on Sundays in response to community concerns

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: March 21, 2018
  • Published March 21, 2018

Responding to community concerns about alcohol-fueled deaths and accidents in Southwest Alaska, the only operating liquor store in Bethel has decided to close its doors on Sundays.

The response by store owner Alaska Commercial comes after the tribal  government in nearby Napaskiak called on Gov. Bill Walker to shut down the liquor store, and after Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, organized a public hearing Saturday so residents could express concerns.

"The whole idea is based on some of the challenges (the region) has with regard to sobriety and of course health and safety," said Walter Pickett, general manager for AC, on Wednesday.

Some people have said they're seeing too many emergency calls and other alcohol-related problems since the store opened almost two years ago, the first liquor store in Bethel in more than 40 years. Many villages near Bethel voted long ago to ban alcohol within their borders.

Pickett said he's reached out to Sharon Williams, the tribal administrator in Napaskiak, to get the village's ideas for solutions. The dry community of 450 is about 7 miles south of Bethel, on the Kuskokwim River.

One option is creating a do-not-sell list, based on input from communities, of people with a record of alcoholism and community disturbance, he said. The store already does not sell to people with bootlegging convictions and other restrictions on their record, but this list would go further than that, he said.

The liquor store has operated daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. but will close Sundays starting this weekend, he said.

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