ABC Board Postpones Granting Bethel's Final Liquor Store License

Apr 7, 2017

Steve Chung defends his liquor store license application for the Tundra Liquor Cache at the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board meeting on April 6, 2017 in Anchorage.
Credit Johanna Eurich / KYUK

There is no decision yet on who will get Bethel's last remaining package store liquor license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board notified everyone of its agenda change Thursday, the day of the meeting. But some already had tickets to Anchorage and came anyway. 

The  ABC Board went ahead and heard from those who attended Thursday's meeting in Anchorage. The two who spoke were Bethel's city attorney and one of the three applicants, Steve Chung with the proposed Tundra Liquor Cache.

Bethel City Attorney Patty Burley described the status of the three applications for Bethel's last package store license. She told the board that the City Council had protested Cezary Maczynski's license application for Kusko Liquor because the Planning Commission had not approved a conditional use permit for it. Burley said that the issue was Maczynski's inability to provide the parking spaces needed under city code.

As far as the Alaska Commercial Company's liquor store application, Burley said that the city did not get a notice of it in time to act. But she went on to explain that AC knew it had applied for the license, but it has yet to file for a conditional use permit despite the city notifying AC of the requirement several times since it learned of the company's interest in opening another package store in Bethel.

Finally, she explained that the Bethel Planning Commission also turned down Steve Chung's request for a conditional use permit for the Tundra Liquor Cache. She did not give the reasons for that decision, which left the door open for Chung to describe his application to the ABC Board and how he worked with the city to meet its codes, including the required parking spaces. He described a Planning Commission meeting where nearby local residents argued that the liquor store was not compatible with their neighborhood. The location is zoned commercial. 

Bethel Planning Director Ted Meyer read to KYUK the list of reasons for the Planning Commission's decision. The first item was a lack of compatibility with the neighborhood, something that Meyer admitted in a phone interview "could be a subjective judgment" by the commission. The second reason given by the city was increased snowmachine traffic off the river, the proximity to the highway, and possible impacts to pedestrians. The third reason for turning down the conditional use permit was the lack of parking, though Meyer says Chung's facility does have the minimum required by city code. He added that the Commission can demand more.

Chung told the ABC board Thursday that the commission provided no specifics on how he could make his application acceptable, an assessment that Planning Director Meyer confirmed.

Chung told the ABC Board that he plans to appeal the Bethel Planning Commission's decision on Friday, April 7. City Attorney Burley told the Board that the appeal will not be decided before they meet next week to decide about the three applications for a Bethel package liquor store.