ABC Board upholds Bethel City Council’s protest of liquor license

Bethel city councilmembers and the city clerk listen to the ABC Board meeting. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/ KYUK)
Bethel city councilmembers and the city clerk listen to the ABC Board meeting. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/ KYUK)

The Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, voted unanimously late Tuesday morning to uphold Bethel City Council’s protest of Dimitri’s, a local pizzeria in Bethel, liquor license application.

Five council members, including Bethel Mayor Rick Robb, and the city clerk called into the meeting from the local city chambers.

“It’s not so much alcohol policy, it’s about Bethel Municipal Code,” Robb said.

The Bethel Municipal Code states that alcohol cannot be sold within 200 feet of the entrance to a church or school grounds.

“In this particular case, this restaurant, due to its proximity to an established and defined school, is in violation of the Bethel Municipal Code,” Robb said.

Community members voted out of local option in 2010 due to what some call, draconian laws regarding alcohol.

But the issue of alcohol sales in Bethel is much larger than Dimitri’s. Bethel is an unrestricted alcohol community, although no sales are allowed in town.

Councilmember Chuck Herman says it’s an issue that’s caused a lot of debate.

“This issue is a very divisive issue,” Herman said. “I know people on about every conceivable side.”

He says the focus is on finding a good solution.

“What everyone can agree is that there’s no perfect solution, especially in the framework we’re given,” Herman said. “I think we’re trying to find a solution within the framework we’re given and this is what we can come up with for now.”

Bethel City Councilman Zach Fansler and attorney Patty Burly traveled to Kotzebue to attend the meeting, on behalf of the council.

When pressed about the council’s potential response to other liquor licenses, Fansler said the board’s protest of Dimitri’s application was based on their code violation.

There was no representative from Dimitri’s to counter their argument.

Dimitri’s could not be reached for comment at the time this story was produced.

Community members will be able to vote on an advisory question regarding legalized alcohol sales in a regular election Oct. 6.