Next month, Bethel could hold its first restaurant liquor license in decades.
March 6 marks the final day Bethel City Council can protest the Fili’s Pizza liquor license application. The council rejected that action at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, its final meeting before the protest deadline.
Fili’s has met the conditions imposed by council to avoid protest. It’s created adequate parking and set up a barrier between Ridgecrest Drive and its parking lot. Right now that barrier is chain slung through empty oil drums, which will be replaced with a metal guardrail after the ground thaws.
Earlier this month the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board reviewed Fili’s application and voted to approve the license if the 60-day protest period passed without opposition from city council. That period ends March 6.
Since only city council can legally protest the application at this point and has no plans to do so, Council Member Chuck Herman says the governing body should get out of Fili’s way and waive the remaining protest period.
“Red tape is only good when it’s protecting the public and serving the public interest, and when it seems to be purely serving the purpose of delaying a legal business from taking action and moving forward, it is not serving, to me, any purpose at that point,” Herman said.
Council Member Zach Fansler disagrees, saying waiving the remaining protest days sets a bad precedent for the council moving forward, and he instead calls for caution.
“I think it’s super important that the public have the time while we still have the time to say, ‘Pass another condition,’ and we need to do the due diligence on all this to serve the public process the best way we can,” Fansler said.
If council doesn’t submit a protest by March 6, Fili’s would receive its license pending an assessment of its premises by an ABC inspector.
An advisory vote last fall showed that the majority of Bethel voters opposed restaurants receiving liquor licenses. The only resistance Fili’s application has received so far is from the Association of Village Council Presidents, which claims the license could harm public health and safety in Bethel and surrounding villages.