The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has reduced the number of liquor licenses available in Bethel from three to two. Initially, there were three approved liquor licenses: Bethel Native Corporation, Cezary Maczynski, and Alaska Commercial Company. But as the ABC Board considered not renewing AC's license in May, it re-evaluated the city's population numbers.
Erika McConnell is the Director of the ABC Board, and says the reason for the reduction is because most license types are limited by population in Alaska. McConnell said that the ABC Board’s office is required to re-evaluate communities based on updated population figures from the Department of Commerce each year.
“We do it in the first quarter of each year, and we have to post it by the end of April. And when we did that this year the population of Bethel fell below, just barely below, 6,000 people,” said McConnell.
With one package store per 3,000 people, McConnell says that they just did the math.
“Because they fell below 6,000 they are only allocated two licenses instead of three licenses because last year they were slightly over 6,000,” McConnell said.
That leaves BNC and Maczynski as the two license holders for the remainder of the year. But should a local option alcohol ban not pass in the October elections, that could change again.
“Next year we will re-evaluate the population figures again, based on the Department of Commerce figures,” said McConnell.
Even with the available housing market in Bethel so tight, there are actually more people in the city now, despite the Department of Commerce data. John Sargent, Grant Manager with the City of Bethel, uses population data in his work and says that the increase is due to all the people in town dealing with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation expansion.
“But these are not official residents,” said Sargent.
Sargent says that the state demographer only considers a person a resident if he or she lives in a place six months or longer.