Bethel City Council Narrowly Blocks Local Option Introduction

Jan 10, 2018

A bottle of R&R Whiskey lying in a Bethel parking lot.
Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

Bethel City Council slapped down a proposal to revisit Bethel’s local option alcohol sale situation on Tuesday night. The City Council narrowly voted to oppose the introduction of a ballot proposition revisiting the local option decision and banning all alcohol sales except those from a city-run liquor store. The proposition would have also asked voters whether to stop applying a Class C felony to people who supply alcohol to those under age 21.

The effort failed three to four, with council members Leif Albertson, Naim Shabani, and the ordinance’s sponsor, Mitchell Forbes, voting in favor. Forbes announced that he isn’t giving up. He stated before the vote: “If the Council would prefer that we do this as a citizen-led initiative, then I will file the paperwork tomorrow."

A citizen-led initiative would require 248 signatures. It’s what Mayor Rick Robb, Vice Mayor Fred Watson, and council member Mark Springer said a ballot proposition to change the city’s alcohol status needed. Springer also wanted to see more choices for voters.

“The people should bring in a petition to the City Clerk saying we want a local option vote," Springer said. "Maybe enough of them won’t want it to be a city-run liquor store. Maybe it will be: should the City of Bethel be dry, or should we be damp, which is what we were, or should we stay wet? That’s really what the question ought to be.”

Many council members also wanted more details on how the store would operate.

One thing did change at the meeting regarding alcohol: permit fees. One fee went up; another was added. The fee for a conditional use permit increased to $500 from $200. A fee of $50 was added for permits to hold special events where there is alcohol sold. The additional revenue will go to the police budget.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Association of Village Council Presidents presented a resolution to the Council, asking the City to create a Task Force to assess the impact of alcohol sales on Bethel and surrounding communities.

“It’s another method, or a way, to obtain information not only from those services that exist here in Bethel, but those outlying villages that are asking for some say in what happens to communities in the region,” explained AVCP CEO Vivian Korthuis. 

Mayor Robb said that he’s willing to write a resolution to that effect and present it at the next Council meeting.

Lastly in alcohol matters, Bethel Spirits liquor store is applying to maintain its liquor license. The Council has until the end of the month to protest the application, but no members voiced interest.

In another action, the Council unanimously voted to hand over responsibility of caring for animals at the city dog pound to Bethel Friends of Canines. The transfer will save the City more than $6,000 per year and gives Bethel Friends of Canines a secure place to house rescues.

Finally, the proposal to loosen sales tax requirements for isolated sales, like Saturday Markets and yard sales, was referred to the city’s Finance Committee for discussion.