Alcohol tax revenue higher than expected in Bethel

Eighteen packs of canned beer line the shelves at the opening of BNC's liquor store, Bethel Spirits, on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK - Bethel)
Eighteen packs of canned beer line the shelves at the opening of BNC’s liquor store, Bethel Spirits, on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK – Bethel)

The city of Bethel has had some trouble collecting taxes in recent months, but one tax they’re not having trouble collecting is the 12% sales tax from alcohol.  Since the city sold its first legal alcohol in April, Bethel has collected over a quarter of a million dollars from Bethel’s two alcohol vendors. A third vendor recently opened but those numbers were not included.

At 5 p.m. you can see people stopping at the city’s new liquor store on their way home to pick up a six pack or bottle wine. Each purchase includes a bit to pay alcohol taxes to the city.

AC Quick Stop, which opened in May, paid $271,652 to the city in alcohol taxes. That means the store sold about $2.5 million from sales before taxes. The city is well on its way to meeting and possibly exceeding former Bethel City Manager Anne Capela’s estimated alcohol tax revenue of about half a million per year. She made that prediction based on the amount that the city brings in from cigarette sales tax.

Though most of the alcohol sales took place at the AC Quickstop liquor store, Fili’s Pizza paid the city $5,606 which means they made about $47,000 before taxes.

The city’s tax revenue reveals that the two vendors combined made almost $2.4 million since the first beer was sold on April 8, 2016.

But is it worth it? In other words — does the money the city makes from alcohol taxes help… more than it hurts by increasing the rate of alcohol-fueled crime? District Attorney for Bethel, Michael Gray, thinks it does help because he hasn’t seen any increase in crime, at least in Bethel.

“We were really expecting to see a real significant uptick. And so far, in terms of the cases referred to us, we just haven’t seen it,” Gray said.

The Association of Village Council Presidents recently passed a resolution condemning the effect of alcohol sales on the villages. Gray says the villages are another matter that’s difficult to measure, though he suspects legal sales may have caused an increase there.

“In August and September, we were noticing a significant uptick in the referrals for sexual assaults in the river villages. I can’t say that that’s related but I certainly suspect that it may be,” Gray said.

Gray says the additional revenue should be used to help Bethel’s police department.

“For years they’ve been understaffed, they have a hard time. Bethel’s a hard town to recruit people to come and live in.” Gray said.

Though Gray doesn’t explicitly support a liquor store, he thinks the income will make a positive difference if it’s used for law enforcement.

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