The fate of Bethel’s alcohol sales is in voters’ hands. Voters decided Tuesday to not end alcohol sales in Bethel, according to unofficial election results


The City of Bethel posted the unofficial election results to its Facebook page. According to those results, 53 percent voted to allow sales of alcoholic beverages in the community of Bethel. 

In May, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board shut down the only year-round liquor store in Bethel after an emotional public hearing. Bethel Spirits, a store owned by the Bethel Native Corporation, reopened in July selling beer and wine.

The Southwest Alaska community of Bethel has had numerous votes on alcohol. Legal alcohol sales began in 2016 for the first time in 40 years. Since then, Bethel Search and Rescue says its calls have gone up more than 150 percent. Earlier this year, the village of Napaskiak asked the governor to make a disaster declaration to close the liquor store in Bethel due to the high number of alcohol-related deaths.

The ABC Board granted several licenses following the vote in 2015 to allow liquor sales. Tuesday’s vote would mean those licenses can be used to open stores. 

In a city-sponsored call-in show on KYUK, local government specialist Jedediah Smith with the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office said that if a local option were to pass, implementation would begin 90 days from when the election result was certified. With that, all licenses would become void, and restrictions on the amount of alcohol a person could import would take effect.