It was late arriving, but a letter from Bethel's Fire Chief raises serious concerns about Alaska Commercial Company's existing liquor store. The company's General Manager is flying in to be present when the City Council meets to consider lifting its protest of the company's application for Bethel's last remaining liquor store license. There is also a competing application.
This Thursday, Bethel City Council will consider removing its protest of the Alaska Commercial Company's liquor license application following the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Conditional Use Permit for the proposed store.
Late last week, a letter from Bethel Fire Chief Bill Howell was added to the packet for the special meeting. Howell laid out some concerns he had about ACC's existing liquor store, the only one currently operating year-round in town. He said that police calls to the store site have gone up, a neighbor has been forced to put up fences to deter loiterers, and that a former AC Quick-Stop employee complained about being ordered to sell alcohol to drunk people. That complaint was sent to the police, but ACC head Walt Pickett says that the company was never contacted about it.
“This was news to me, that an ex-employee felt pressured to sell alcohol to an intoxicated individual,” said Pickett. “It goes against everything that we stand for and it is against the law, the state law.”
Pickett says each of their liquor store employees go through a state certification program set up by the industry trade association CHARR and have been specifically instructed to not sell alcohol to intoxicated individuals.
Howell's letter also says that the company previously failed to submit its plans for the current AC Quick-Stop store to the State Fire Marshall’s office for approval prior to construction.
“I was unaware that we had an issue there,” said Pickett. “We follow a pretty strong regimen, and in the last five years we’ve spent over five million in Bethel, improving our facility.”
So far as Pickett knows, the State Fire Marshal's office has approved the new proposed facility site. He says that it’s part of what ACC's contractors are supposed to do.
Howell’s letter cites a rise in police calls to the liquor store in 2017 that have already surpassed 2016, which was “a record year in itself.”
Pickett says they already have security staff on site for both of their current locations.
This Thursday, Pickett and others from ACC will be in Bethel for the City Council’s special meeting at 6:30 p.m.