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.
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!
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!
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 remember...you can ALWAYS make your own blog with your OWN opinions too!)