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Bethel city council to discuss package store, fitness center discount after postponed meeting

City of Bethel

The Bethel City Council’s agenda on Aug. 23 is the same as earlier this month. After absences postponed their last meeting, the council is considering the same items as two weeks ago. That includes a ballot proposition that would put to voters the question of whether Bethel should allow a package store that sells beer and wine.

The council vote is strictly a formality, because the question of whether or not Bethel should have a package store will ultimately be decided by the voters. The proposition already received the requisite number of signatures to be placed on the ballot. That’s 165 signatures, or 35% of the turnout of the last municipal election. The package store proposition would appear on the October city election ballot, but the earliest Bethel could see a package store would be 2024.

A recent amendment to alcohol laws in Alaska, signed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in July, carved out a clause that allows cities to grant licenses to package stores that sell only beer and wine under the local option. However the bill does not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2024.

Under Bethel’s current local option status, the city is damp. Residents can possess and ship in limited quantities of alcohol, and restaurants can get a license to serve beer and wine. Fili’s Pizza is the only Bethel restaurant with such a license.

Also on the meeting agenda, there is also an item that would establish a “pay-what-you-can” discount for the YK Fitness Center. Under that program, families and individuals could receive up to a 75% discount to the fitness center, depending on household income. At the last city council meeting, Stacey Reardon, the fitness center’s facility director, asked the council to postpone discussion about that discount until they’ve more carefully considered how it would affect the fitness center’s revenue. Council member Perry Barr, who introduced the discount plan, agreed that there should be more time to think it through, so it may not be discussed at the Aug. 23 meeting.

The city council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will air live on KYUK 640 AM. If you’d like to speak at the meeting you can join online or attend in person.

Will McCarthy is a temporary news reporter at KYUK. Previously, he worked as a furniture mover, producer, and freelance journalist. Will's written for the New York Times, National Geographic, and Texas Monthly. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.