Kotzebue to vote on sale of alcohol

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Alcohol is back on the ballot in Kotzebue, where voters will have another shot at allowing bars and liquor stores to open for the first time in nearly 15 years.

The regional center is damp, allowing alcohol imports and consumption but not sale of liquor.

In contrast to the hotly debated alcohol votes of the late 1980s, the election set for Oct. 1 has been remarkably low key so far, Mayor Eugene Smith said last week.

Kotzebue narrowly voted to go damp in 1987.

One year later, however, former owners of bars and liquor stores joined with others trying to overturn the decision. A vigorous campaign ensued, featuring television commercials, mailing blitzes, phone banks and radio debates. But the idea of allowing liquor sales in town was rejected by a wider margin than in 1987.

Kim Nay thinks it's time for a change. The ban on sales has hiked the cost of liquor and driven drinking behind closed doors, he said. "The city is just looking at all the bad apples. They haven't taken into consideration the responsible users."

Nay had no problem finding nearly a dozen people to co-sponsor his petition or getting 85 registered voters to sign it, he said.

"Everybody that I've talked to is tired of having to spend $200 just to have a beer," he said. That price is an exaggeration, but Nay said a bottle of liquor that costs $10 in Anchorage is worth $50 in Kotzebue.

Ross Schaeffer, mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough, was the town magistrate when the bars were open and recalled that "98 percent of the people that were going to jail were there because of alcohol. We really didn't have a criminal element," he said.

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