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BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Bethel has become more peaceful following the closure of the town’s only liquor store, residents have said.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board refused to renew the license for AC Quickstop’s liquor store last month, immediately closing down the shop, KYUK-AM reported .

Calls for emergency services and the rate of alcohol-related deaths increased after the store opened in 2016, causing a strain on city resources, officials said.

The Bethel Fire Department experienced a 30 percent hike in calls related to intoxication after the store opened, said Thomas Haviland, the department’s third in command.

“For a town our size, it’s a lot of calls,” Haviland said.

While the official numbers aren’t available yet, the fire and police departments said the calls for service seem to be dropping since the store’s closure.

Resident Shari Neth said she can now walk her dog in a park that was previously littered with broken glass and people passed out.

“I was gone when it closed, but when I came back I was walking the dog and there was no glass on the boardwalk, and it was almost as if someone had lifted a blanket off the community,” Neth said. “It was so much more peaceful.”

Andrea Joe, who lives across from the former liquor store, said she now feels safe to walk with her young son at night.

While the community may seem calmer, members of the city’s Alcohol Task Force said the problems with alcohol won’t disappear.

Alcohol and its related crime will still be the largest drain on city resources, said Eileen Arnold, executive director of the Tundra Women’s Coalition.


Information from: KYUK-AM,