AC Quickstop’s liquor store will not be open Wednesday morning. In a game-changing and emotional decision, the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board decided against renewing AC Quickstop’s liquor license on Tuesday night, which effectively shut down Bethel’s only operating liquor store. The Board’s decision will go into effect immediately.
In denying the liquor store its license, the ABC Board honored the Bethel City Council’s protest against AC Quickstop. In her comments on Tuesday, Bethel City Attorney Patty Burley told board members that the rate of alcohol-related deaths in Bethel has risen dramatically since AC Quickstop’s liquor store opened in 2016. The Bethel Police Department and paramedics have also experienced an overwhelming increase in calls. The liquor store is located in a densely populated neighborhood near Bethel’s public schools, and Burley argued that the Alaska Commercial company, which owns AC Quickstop, had both picked a dangerous location and done little to ensure the community’s safety.
The board made their decision after listening to almost five hours of tense and tearful public comments. Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta community members travelled to Bethel from throughout the region to attend the meeting. The Bethel Cultural Center was packed with about 150 elders, political leaders, health care workers and other residents; an unknown number of people in Y-K Delta villages also participated in the meeting by phone. Most of the people who spoke to the Board described the sheer devastation that alcohol had wrought in their communities.
While the ABC Board denied AC Quickstop’s liquor license renewal, it approved the Bethel Native Corporation’s liquor license renewal for Bethel Spirits, the city’s only other liquor store. The business is only open 30 days out of the year, and board members noted that the city of Bethel had not protested its license. BNC plans to transfer its liquor license to Caribou Trader’s Liquor, which is owned by the Sea Lion Corporation, a native corporation from the dry village of Hooper Bay. The Board opted to postpone its decision on the transfer until after Bethel’s October elections, where voters will decide whether they still want legal alcohol sales in their town or would prefer to return to local option.