Bethel, Alaska – The implementation of new alcohol laws in Alaska has led to a significant setback in personal alcohol deliveries to Bethel and other Western Alaska communities. The focus of the discussion surrounding these new laws has mainly revolved around extended operating hours for breweries and distilleries. However, a particular provision in the legislation has effectively halted the transportation of alcohol to these communities.
Under the new alcohol law, cargo carriers must register themselves to transport alcohol, and alcohol retailers are only permitted to use registered carriers. For instance, package stores fulfilling written orders for communities outside of Anchorage are required to utilize an approved common carrier, as stated by Joan Wilson, the director of the Alaska Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office (AMCO).
As of now, only five “common carriers” have completed the necessary licensing process, and among them, only Alaska Airlines and Northern Air Cargo are authorized to deliver alcohol to Western Alaska communities. Northern Air Cargo was just recently added to the approved list. This situation poses a significant challenge for many Western Alaska communities, especially those designated as “local option” areas, which have imposed restrictions on the possession, importation, or sale of alcohol.
To become a registered carrier of alcoholic beverages under the new law, companies must complete an application form and pay a one-time common carrier fee of $1,250, which is then approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. However, many businesses, such as Dependable Freight, the agent responsible for alcohol shipments via Everts Air Cargo, were caught off guard by the common carrier application requirement.
While some establishments in Bethel, like Uncommon Pizza, which is licensed to sell beer and wine, have not experienced disruptions in their alcohol shipments, numerous customers have reported delays in receiving their orders. The issue of carrier licensing has also affected retailers in Anchorage, with liquor orders being put on hold until the companies can navigate the state carrier licensing process.
The challenges faced by Bethel and other Western Alaska communities with alcohol sales are not new. Many communities in the region have implemented varying degrees of alcohol sales restrictions, including Bethel, where concerns were raised against AC Quickstop’s package store in 2018. Bethel transitioned back to “damp” status in 2020 after its only liquor store closed, leading to a decade-long period as a “wet” community. Furthermore, residents rejected the establishment of a beer and wine package store in a recent vote.
At present, there is no timeline for resolving the issues surrounding common carrier licensing. The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office has yet to provide any comment on the matter. This setback in alcohol deliveries serves as another challenge for Bethel and other Western Alaska communities as they navigate the complexities of alcohol regulation.
In summary, Alaska’s new alcohol laws have significantly impacted personal alcohol deliveries to Bethel and other Western Alaska communities. The requirement for cargo carriers to register has resulted in a limited number of approved carriers, causing delays and disruptions in alcohol shipments. Bethel, in particular, has long grappled with the complexities of alcohol sales regulation, from local option restrictions to the closure of its only liquor store. While the resolution to the common carrier licensing issue remains uncertain, it further complicates the already challenging landscape of alcohol availability in Western Alaska.