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Bethel council will appeal ABC board on liquor license application

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 24, 2015

BETHEL -- City leaders in this Western Alaska hub are pushing back against a state board's rejection of their effort to block alcohol sales for now.

The Bethel City Council, after a lengthy closed-door meeting Thursday night, announced it would appeal the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board's July 1 decision to reject its protest of an application for a liquor license being sought by Bethel Native Corp.

Under state law, the ABC board must accept a local government's protest of a liquor license -- and prevent sales by that business -- unless it finds the position was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable."

Mayor Rick Robb said the council disagreed with that assessment of its position, given that residents opposed legal sales in a 2010 advisory vote. The city has set a new advisory vote for Oct. 6. Council members said the updated sentiments of voters should determine the city's course on alcohol.

Council members said they were frustrated.

"We believe the ABC Board denial of the protest undermines the broad discretion governing bodies have to protest liquor license applications," the mayor said in a brief public meeting.

The ABC board has agreed to hold a public hearing in Bethel before ruling on the license application by Bethel Native Corp. That hearing has been tentatively set for Oct. 22.

Some council members say they support legal sales, but on an issue that affects so many parts of life they want to follow the will of the voters. Robb, who supports legal sales, voted against the protest of the liquor license but as mayor is representing the council's position.

The council directed its attorney to lodge an appeal with the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

The ABC board has been unable to say how often it has rejected a local government protest. That information is not tracked. Vice Mayor Leif Albertson said the board has not been able to cite a single example.