Bethel liquor store spills over to nearby villages

BETHEL — Villages near Bethel have had an uptick in alcohol-related incidents since the first liquor store opened in the town in more than 40 years last week.

Officials in the nearby villages of Akiak, Kwethluk and Napaskiak say that since Bethel got a liquor store, their villages effectively did as well, KYUK-AM reported.

The AC Quickstop opened to a small crowd on April 3 in Bethel, a community of about 6,200 people in southwest Alaska that was founded by Yup’ik Eskimos. The new business is owned by Alaska Commercial Co., which has 31 stores in remote communities around the state.

In Akiak, about 20 miles east of Bethel, Tribal Police Officer Cynthia Ivan said that since the store opened, there have been emergency calls about assault, domestic violence, suicide threats, public intoxication and intoxicated children. There has also been an uptick in bootlegging because it has become easier to get liquor into the city, she said.

Napaskiak Mayor Brenda Carmichael said she’s worried her city’s small police force won’t be able to handle increased emergency calls caused by intoxication.

The dry village is about a 20-minute boat ride downriver from Bethel. Most villages in the area are dry, but Carmichael said since Bethel got a liquor store Napaskiak basically did as well.

Pete Suskuk, the Kwethluk tribal police chief, said he is also concerned about his small police force and the increased crime.

“We usually have jail guards, and right now we don’t have any jail guards because of budget cuts,” Suskuk said. “… (Because of alcohol-related crime), now the officer is going to have sit here all night long (in the jail) until someone is able to come in and relieve him or her and will have to stay in the building. We can’t leave the building, even though we got another call.”

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