Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kotzebue, where you can legally buy liquor now!

For over twenty years, Kotzebue has been classified as "Damp" meaning that the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, but, one may declare it in his or her baggage, or have it shipped from what's locally known as "the native store" (Brown Jug Wharehouse) in Anchorage. (OK, don't get all huffy now cause its called the native store, I'm native and I don't take offense. Also, why would any Anchorage-miut get liquor from there when they can just go to the Tesoro down the street!?)


I remember going to the liquor store with my mom and waiting outside so she could get a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft, bottled of course, and wondering what all the hubub was about. In 1987 that changed. The All-American City voted to prohibit the sales of alcoholic beverages. All the bars and liquor stores went out of business and the social services department at Maniilaq tripled. Rather than drinking in a bar, people started to drink at home.

Fast forward to three days ago. You could still get a bottle of R&R whiskey for $60 (I think), and you could still take 12 bottles of wine with you as luggage. You could still go to the Lion's Club during a private party and have an open container of alcohol, as long as you were 21 years or older and invited. And you could still order your alcohol by the cases to drink at home.

Police on duty

An entire generation of "drinkers" was born and raised in this atmosphere where there seems to be no "social drinking skills." People covet their precious bottle of whiskey that they paid four times the amount for and drink to get drunk, rather than to enjoy the smoothness of a rum and coke while watching Monday night football. People here just don't know HOW to drink. And I don't blame them. They were taught this by everyone else in town who hoards their alcohol and would rather drink a fifth of whiskey to themselves in one night instead of share with their cohort. There are no social drinking establishments here. It's home, shop, or pretty much, home or shop!

john buying

Pause on today: When the liquor store opened earlier, we joked that my friend who works as an Alcohol/Substance Abuse counselor should stand outside and give out her cards as the cases were bought. "Get em while they're hot!" We also watched as people timidly walked into the liquor store like they were doing something illegal, by purchasing a six-pack of Alaskan Amber. Ooohh, the bootleggers are gonna be maaad!


There were 42 people standing outside, standing inside and watching from their vehicles. Local paparazzi, in the form of Cathy , myself and KOTZ radio were there too, to "document" the "historical day". THE DAY KOTZEBUE opened a liquor store. Oh, sorry, RE-OPENED a liquor store. Lets just hope that the social problems from 1989 don't come out of the cracks and work themselves back up to 2010.


Why after twenty years did the City decide to open a liquor store? I don't know...go ask your dad. Oh oops. Long story short: Pretty much because the City is in financial distress. The bootlegging economy is thriving. People want to buy liquor. So, its a simple enough answer. The city is the only establishment allowed to sell alcohol, so everyone is going to go to them to buy it.


City residents must purchase a $50 "liquor license" and present that with a photo ID at the time of purchase. Each year it will cost $25 to renew your license. In order to be a city resident, you also must show a bill with your PHYSICAL address on it. And that's not easy to do here unless you have a City water and sewer bill. (like me!) Permit holders are those people who have no conditions of release, have committed no crimes involving alcohol, who have proven residency and paid their $50 fee.


In addition to the permits, the "Alcohol Board" has strict guidelines and daily limits. So, I can't go into the store with my permit and ID and purchase a case of R&R. (sorry dudes.) But if one is persistent, they can get one bottle of R&R a day... (gross)


I have extreme mixed feelings about the liquor store. One one shoulder I have little-maija saying, "WHY the hell would the city open a liquor store without a BAR for everyone to drink at? What? So they can spend all their money on new police officers and social programs and houses for kids who are taken out of the homes of drunks???! AND more medivacs and accidents and DWI's???!! " Then, on the other shoulder, I have little-maija saying, "Yay. Now I don't have to ship all my bottled wine! AND, when I want to make beer-battered shiifish/halibut/anything, I can just pop on over and get an Alaskan Amber to do the job!" (Although the wine selection is grody, at best. I mean come on, yellowtail and boxed wine??! They NEED me!) My little-maija's are constantly fighting in my head.


So, "the store" opened and door prizes were given out. I got a text from Dean after work saying, "I got a Molson Ice shirt with my Rainer!" which is Gross cause Rainer is disgusting, but the shirt was nice and since he's Canadian (sorry dad) he will wear it with pride! Also while I was there, it was nice to see that for the most part, the majority of people just wanted a beer!

pbr on its way

Actually, the first purchase by a resident "permit holder" was for an 18 pack of PBR. And to top it all off, how else would an 18 pk of PBR ride home in a village? On a 4-wheeler, Represent!

(* Note: I am in no way "FOR" or "AGAINST" the opening of the liquor store in Kotzebue. I understand some people really don't want it, and some really do. Keep an open mind and can ALWAYS make your own blog with your OWN opinions too!)


Anonymous said...

I have to say, the beer looked very refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Maija.... nice to see YOUR side of this issue on your blog, but what about those of us who work in the health field and have seen the BAD side of it ? I, for one, can see where this service will diminish bootlegging, however, I can see where it will also raise the homicide and suicide rates again !! I grew up in Kotzebue when in the 80s both statistics were higher due to more alcohol being accessed in town. I expect that in several years from now, these stats will again rise ! AND more accidents, hangings, suicides, and murders will occur! I don't mind a cold beer once in a while, however, put into the WRONG hands, more alcohol WILL change Kotzebue for the worse, again ! Do we REALLY need a REPEAT performance in Kotzebue once again ?? Really, people !!

Finnskimo said...

I absolutely agree, but you can blog if you want too.

The post wasn't at all encouraging or supporting the liquor store opening whatsoever. It was meant to be a buffer between those people, like yourself, who see ONLY the BAD. And those people, who are excited to have it opened.

Don't forget, EVERYONE has seen the bad side of alcohol. Wet, Damp, or Dry, it makes no difference.

And actually we did a study when I worked at Maniilaq on the statistics between 1980 and 1995, and the results will probably shock you.

Anyway...nice comment, way to stay anonymous!

Cathy said...

Hey Bart....

I disagree with some of what you say. I do not believe that having a bar keeps people from causing problems at home. People who get drunk at a bar eventually go home drunk, often to keep drinking.

The people who started the petition to allow alcohol sales in Kotzebue used the argument that it would make things better. That it would be the answer to our bootlegging problems and combat binge drinking. Lets be honest. I don't for a second believe that is the real reason that they wanted to to change the local option. I think the REAL reason was because they wanted to be able to go and buy booze/beer and drink itwhen they wanted to. That simple. I think it was kind of skeezy for them to state that it was any other reason than that.

The fact of the matter is that binge drinkers will always be binge drinkers whether it be a $70 bootleg bottle or R&R or a $14 bottle of Kotzebue bought Monarch Canadian Whiskey. This change has made binge drinking all that much more affordable.

I also disagree that people are stingy with booze. Maybe some are like that but plenty of others aren't. I know people who NEVER need money to drink. There are always people willing to share their bottle and their misery with others.

Also, the limit of one bottle of booze per person per day will open the opportunity for a different, albeit less lucrative, form of bootlegging. I could get a permit and sell my allotted bottle booze or multiple cases of beer a day to people who are not allowed a permit to drink. I think we are just trading one set of problems for another. Not any better, but maybe even worse.

But that is just my opinion which I am not scared to say with my real name attached to it. :) Now lets go pick some berries, ah?

Finnskimo said...

Heck yes! And I picked another GALLON yesterday. After work good?!

Cathy said...

I'll see what Mr. Jones has in mind for the evening and get back to you.

Karen Thompson said...

By the way, in reference, to only seeing the BAD in this issue? What GOOD will having LOCAL access to alcohol bring to our community and region? In regards to your comment about the shocking statistics between 1980 - 1995, a lot of those were DAMP years !! THAT alone would bring down the homicide and suicide rates ! Puleez....

Tracy said...

You know...the ones that cause the problems were very likely to do so before it was legal--like you said it's not like they didn't have ANY access at all, only the bootleggers were benefitting instead of the city. (And this is coming from the wife of an alcoholic no longer drinking who knows they will get it anyway. lol At least now it's somewhat monitored)

Tracy said...

Oh, and I don't live there, but here in the south, we have the same ole arguments and still have some "dry" areas where everyone just goes to the next town/city over that DOES sell it to get it anyway so their city is loosing out on the tax money.

Finnskimo said...

Uhm, did you not notice that the liquor stores closed in 1989... so by my calculations, and don't forget, I COULD BE WRONG... But 1980 - 1995 pretty much does NOT mean, "most of those years were damp years..."

It actually means from 1980-1989 the stats would blow your mind...then from 1990-1995 you'd be surprised.

Wait, we have a homicide rate?! Whoa!

John Lincoln said...


Closing the bars in this town was like finding hickies on your boyfriend or girlfriend's neck then buying them a turtle neck. Sure, you don't have to see direct evidence of reprehensible behavior, but that doesn't solve any problems. Do people go home drunk after a night out at some bars? Of course they do, but that's a pathetically weak argument against a local bar when the alternative is having people drink in their homes among family and children who would otherwise choose not to be around it, ESPECIALLY when alcohol is purchased in bulk and in high potency (as was the norm before our liquor store... hello ubiquitous RnR bottle).

The fantasy about things getting better when the bars closed is contradicted by the research Maija did at Maniilaq and by the experiences of people who've lived here for a long time, including the former chief of police and fire/EMS chief. If that's not sufficient to get you to open your mind about this, then we basically have nothing to talk about, and I'll go back to limiting my interaction with you to enjoying your awesome photos.

As one of the "people who started the petition to allow alcohol sales in Kotzebue", I have to say [SHAME ON] YOU for calling me “skeezy” liar. Your generalizations and ignorant name calling are pathetic coming from someone as talented and respected as you are. I never once claimed a city store would end bootlegging and the all problems associated with it, but it sure as hell will transfer a substantial amount of income from skeezy bootleggers to our city government. I'd rather have our streets plowed and hire more cops than see another asshole without a job sink a new snowmachine in the lagoon next summer.

John Lincoln said...

Will bootleggers still exist? Definitely. Will they still sell to kids? Unfortunately, yeah. Does that mean we should give up and not take action to address at least part of the problem? I say hell no. Let’s make bootlegging as inconvenient and fruitless as possible.

I grew up in Kotzebue, and I've had laughably easy access to booze since I was 14 years old. I remember high school parties where the alcohol was provided by 7th and 8th grade bootleggers. Every single youth in our IRA's alcohol program claims to be able to get a jug of RnR in a matter of minutes. The whole notion that alcohol availability was meaningfully controlled before Wednesday is ridiculous, and using the black-market street price is misleading. RnR does not cost $60 here. It cost less than $20 a bottle landed from Anchorage. "I know people who NEVER need money to drink." Thanks for helping me make my point.

We agree on at least one thing. I predict that the distribution center and daily limits will have almost no impact on alcohol consumption in Kotzebue. It may, however, help limit the impact our store will have on our villages. You can't, for example, make a day trip from one of our smaller towns to Kotzebue to buy a whole case of booze. Will people find ways to organize and circumvent this? Of course they will, but this was a compromise and the potential benefit does exist for some borough citizens, the cost to responsible Kotzebue residents is low, and, frankly, our elders and other community groups were strongly in favor of this option and I gave them the benefit of the doubt out of respect for their opinion and influence when I wrote the petition.

Welcome to the real world of compromise and uncertainty.

Anonymous said...

everyone has their own opinion and they are entitled. everyone has consequences for their actions. everyone that can buy alcohol is an adult.

this is america, how about teaching a little responsiblity so when people from kotzebue come to the 'real world', they don't go all buck nutty and act like idiots when they get to the 'real world'.

so tired of hearing excuses of people not wanting to grow up there in kotzebue, maybe if there were not the things to bail these adults out (e.g. welfare, tribal 'grants' to pay the bills adults are responisble to pay), this issue of having a 'liquor center' would not be an issue.

everywhere else in america there is a liquor store on just about every corner. the difference is these people are not treated like children. you drink and go to jail. you beat someone go to jail.

so, in MY opinion, what's the big deal, you have a choice to go and buy booze in kotzebue. it should not change any way of how an adult should be responisble.

Rocksee said...

I think this post is a very honest and fair point of view. I don't live in a village, but with my job I've learned alot about this issue in a short amount of time.

I agree with you and with Cathy about this. I think this just makes problems that villages already have, more affordable. And there's always going to be someone who CAN get a permit who is going to find away to bend the rules to get alcohol for those who aren't supposed to have it. It's the nature of the beast. Not just in the village, but EVERYWHERE, someone is going to try to make a buck off of a new situation.

BUT on the same token, I do agree, it probably would be great to swing by the liquor store and get a six pack before a game, or some wine to have with dinner.. or so good ole AK Amber to soak some fish in..

I dunno, it's kinda one of those things that has pros and cons on each side. I hope it all works out for Kotzebue and that things go ok.

Great post as always lady!

Anonymous said...

I'm only anonymus cause I don't have a google account: so here's my name -- Stefanie A.

About 9 years ago I converted from a anti-alcohol stance to a pro-choice alcohol stance because of the following:

1) A person wanting a drink will drink if they make the choice to.

2) If the choice is between a $150 jug (village) immediately or a 2-3 day wait for a 24 pack of beer that costs the same after shipping, they will pick the jug for $150 right now.

3) Drinking alcohol is a choice, and when your deprived of being able to make that choice (i.e. someone's made if for you) then one you have had a violation of your rights, and two you'll learn (like muscle memory) to sneak and feel ashamed.

4) Drinking -- with the feeling of shame can create an assortment of feelings, permetuating an already fragile mind.

5) We already lack vitamin D in our bodies due to the lack of sun, this lowers our level of serotonin and increases our chances of feelings associated with depression; bringing hard liquior into life already fragile (again associated with necessity versus shelf options) increases our violence rates in these communities.

6) It's a personal choice to drink too much or just a bit; but when your only option is 100 proof versus a bottle of beer - you (not you really) create alcholics at a faster rate. It's like my physics problem today --- Which is faster???? Should a preson walk from Arizona to New Mexico at a constant speed or take an airplane half way (if the airplane is 20 times faster than the walker), but then get off the airplane and ride a donkey the rest of the way (the donkey's speed is 1/2 the speed of the walker). Answer: The airplane/donkey combo will get the man to his destination but slower than if the man would have just walked. Desitination is the same, it's just providing options. You probably would have picked the airplane right away right?

6) I worked in a home for kids ten years ago, the kids could tell me how to make home-brew. They never would have learned this skill if mom and dad had the choice to go pick up a six pack. Yeah mom and dad maybe would have drank too much then too, but at least the child would have had the choice to decide to be like mom and dad or not to. Growing up around a bootlegger - teaches a person a life skill that-well although secret and shameful, supports the family for all their needs which is not so shameful.

7) Surplus decreases demand.

8) Shortage increases demand.

9) Local Distributions are taxable!!!! -- No more untaxable private sales, under the table benefiting just one person. Taxes increase jobs, pay for projects and do all kinds of good in a community.

Note: I am not excited a store is open in Kotzebue, but I support it. Why because now there is a choice to drink -- people can choose a six pack versus 100 proof jugs. Giving the choice gives the power back to the person. If the person continues to drink the hard stuff -- well that's when child protective services and law enforcement should step in.

P.S. Statistics show when a person has some sort of faith (regardless of religon type) they are less likely to drink. Faith comes from hope, hope comes from strength, strength comes from determination and happiness within. Happiness within comes from a positive -- foundation of life (when all of a persons immediate needs are met). I urge you all to see Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He's great!

Sabrina said...

Wow...there isn't even a bar? I'm betting a lot of residents are going to "overdo it" in the first few weeks. I don't think it's going to be complete pandemonium and anarchy, because I'm sure there are folks like you that have had to ship in wine, beer, etc...probably for years. This is just a much closer way for you to get it. Our small town has 2 bars and 3 liquor stores. We've had 1 murder in the 6 years I've lived here, and 2 fatal accidents. There are 4 DUI's, and 9 child molestors. I think what keeps our stats down is that it's mostly an older community with most residents being over age 55. Also, we are far from the NAVAL base so we don't get the young crowd over here. Can you send me the recipe you use for beer battering? Every time I make beer-battered fish (the only way my 6 year old son will eat fish!) it turns out a little too gooey or tastes "funny". Anyway, funny story...when we were first married, my husband was in the NAVY. He was 19 and I was 18. We went to the NEX (The NAVY department store that is GROSSLY overpriced for EVERYTHING) and looked around. 5 months later we were moving and my husband told me to "Head over to that package store place by the NEX and pick up some boxes" - I kid you over there I went to find out that a PACKAGE STORE is a liquor store (we had NO idea!). I did end up getting some of the big boxes the beer comes in and some other things, but we still laugh about it today!

Jamie said...

Dear Anonymous,
So you said you used to live here? Where are you now? Do you bitch everytime you drive by a liquor in the city? I know that everyone has mixed feeling about this. But I'm happy. I'm happy to say that I can finally buy alcohol in my hometown, instead of giving Brown Jug & Alaska Airlines all the profit or shipping a couple cases of beer home. About damn time!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how's Kiana's doing???

Anonymous said...

Miaja, this was a great blog. I like reading the comments and seeing people's different points of view. I have a suggestion for your readers. SHOW UP FOR A LBCB MEETING!!!! Be part of the solution. Bitching after the fact only adds to the problem. I was saddened by the lack of community attendance at the LBCB meetings over the last 8 months. There is time for public comment at every meeting, and I personally take every one of those comments to heart. Guess what's next people...we are going to start drafting the ordinances for a city owned bar. You have an up and voice it where it will make a difference, not at the tail end of blog comments after the doors open for business. The Local Beverage Control Board (LBCB) meets the second Wednesday of the month at 5pm in the City council Chambers.
Hope to see you all there,

- Vice-Chairman of the LBCB

Finnskimo said...

Thanks for the Info VP! :)

I'll be there...voicing my opinion, that no doubt, you'll read here later on. Cause that's the funny thing about a personal blog, I get to say what I wanna say! hehehe.

Cathy said...

Well I have been out of town for 7 days so I haven't been back to check the comments on this post til now.

So first I owe a public apology to John Lincoln. I shouldn't have called the founders of the petition skeezy liars. It was not right of me to assume to know your motives. It was my understanding that the position of the petition founders was that going from wet to damp made things worse so going back to wet would be “better“ in order to further their own agenda. You say that is not the case so I will eat crow on that part of the comment.

That being said, I do that issue with you inferring that I was being purposely misleading to suit my own agenda by using the bootleg price for R&R. I used the bootleg price because I want trying to make the point that alcoholics will drink hard liquor whether it costs $70 bucks on the street or $14 in the local liquor store. Hardcore alcoholics are not going to suddenly switch beer and become pussy cats just because they have a 30 pack of Bud Lite available to them around the corner. More than likely these individuals will have the opportunity to be completely inebriated most of the time instead of some of the time.

This issue is an emotional one. Everyone has been touched by the problems of alcoholism in our region. I have lived here since 1997. Sure, that's not a very long time in the grand scheme of things and I wasn't born and raised here, but it is plenty enough time to have been effected by the tragedy of alcoholism in our community. My closest personal relationships have been formed in this town. This is where I choose to raise my child. I may be from somewhere else but Kotzebue is my home now and they will bury me on the hill. I care very deeply about this community and the people in it.

Wet didn't work so Kotzebue went damp. We all can admit that damp didn't work, so now Kotzebue has gone back to wet. I understand wanting to take the money out of the pockets of the bootleggers. We all know who they are, but for many complicated reasons we are unable to stop them. HOWEVER, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth to think that the city will be rolling in dough that has it's source in misery....but then again misery has always been a great money maker whether it be alcohol or tobacco or gambling so I guess this isn’t any different.

I do on occasion have a drink. I have, on ever rarer occasion, had too much to drink, so I don’t want anyone to think I am wary and skeptical about Kotzebue’s new wet status because I am a teetotaler. I am am lucky to be the kind of individual who can take it or leave it when it comes to alcohol. I don’t enjoy drinking enough to care whether or not I have quick access to a 6 pack of beer or bottle of wine. I don’t have alcohol in my home out of respect for my significant other, who has been sober for 6 years but who wasted many precious years and very nearly ruined his life because of his alcoholism and the choices he made while drunk.

So while I still believe that the new wet status in Kotzebue will not make the social ills caused by alcoholism in this community better, I do apologize for making assumptions about the motives of others.

John Lincoln said...

Thanks Cathy. I also apologize if you read anything I said as a personal attack.

Take care

Anonymous said...

NO matter where you put this there will always.. I do mean ALWAYS will be bootlegging in the villages.. With this "Packaging" store it will be a tremendous amount of alcohol in the villages.. This just brings other alcoholic beverages to these places the alcohol is just getting harder and worst.. But in a way people are saving money.. Well in a way but they are still waisting away money they can spend on other things.. Such as their families, others, and not the stuff that people put in to their bodies that just is like killing themselves

Loki said...

The liquor is now under control,I havent seen any death lately,and now instead of straight whiskey rnr we got flavors/yum.This aint the 80's people.