By Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK

Bethel City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on whether to ban hard liquor sales in Bethel, according to KYUK.

Hard liquor, in this case, would be any beverage with an alcohol by volume content of 21 percent or higher. The proposed ordinance would also require liquor store owners to place stickers on each single alcohol bottle or case of beer sold, stating the store’s name and a health warning.

Council member Leif Albertson is sponsoring the proposal and has a history of pursuing stricter alcohol regulation in Bethel.

The proposal says that these changes would help protect the people of Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by offering greater control over the distribution of hard liquor and minimizing its amount in the region. According to the ordinance, hard liquor is the primary alcohol “associated with public intoxication, ambulance and police responses, Search and Rescue missions, bootlegging, and crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Reports of these situations have increased since legalizing alcohol sales in Bethel two years ago. The Bethel Police Department's call volume increased from from 17,052 to 20,634, or 19 percent, between 2015, when alcohol sales were not legal, and 2017, a year after legalization. At the same time, calls for the Bethel Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services increased 38 percent, from 1,172 in 2015 to 1,734 in 2017.

If the proposal passes, residents could still import hard liquor into Bethel through written orders to outside vendors. People with IDs listing communities that have restricted the sale, importation, or possession of alcohol would not be able to place orders.

Albertson's proposed ordinance notes that these written orders would allow the State to track alcohol purchases and identify suspects for bootlegging. It would also require Bethel liquor store owners to notify the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board of customers who regularly order large quantities of alcohol.

This story from KYUK was republished with permission.

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