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Nome City Council Unanimously Rejects Restrictions on Hours for Liquor Sales

Close-up view of a long rack of wine bottles on sale inside a liquor store.

On Monday night, the Nome Common Council unanimously voted against an ordinance that would restrict liquor sales to between the hours of 4-8 pm for all liquor stores south of 6th Avenue. This means the Nome Quickstop on Front Street will be allowed to keep business hours as the establishment sees fit.

Ultimately, half of the council members were concerned that passing the ordinance would punish business owners while not actually combating public intoxication. Councilmember Jennifer Reader cited research on alcohol accessibility in her argument:

“Most of what I’ve found shows prohibiting people from drinking alcohol is really ineffective. It doesn’t help anything, [they] just find other ways to get it… I don’t think that the majority of our community would like us to limit their ability to purchase alcohol for the few members of the community that it effects negatively.”

Councilmember Gerald Brown suggested limiting liquor hours throughout all of Nome. In his argument, he suggested that no business would have different sales opportunities due to location. It would also stop people from going across town to buy liquor after 8pm. A new ordinance passed last meeting (on Oct. 29) requiring an ID for all alcohol sales, and manager of the Nome Alaska Commercial Company, Mike McNally, instituted an 8pm store closing for the Front Street Quickstop in September. Interim City Manager John Handeland noted that public drunkenness seems to be reduced, but that could also be due to colder weather and the opening of the NEST shelter.

The Council unanimously voted against the amendment as worded in the ordinance.

The Council did vote in favor of an amendment to clarify councilmember residency requirements. While that previous ordinance required a councilmember to be a Nome resident for one year prior to election, it did not specify when this needed to be. The new ordinance requires a councilmember to be a city resident for a year immediately prior to the election.

Councilmember Topkok cautioned the Council that their decision may hinder students’ ability to run for office upon returning from school.

“I think it discourages people from voting in their municipality and participating in their local government which I think is really important, when you’re a young student who is 18 or 19 years old you may not realize you’re giving up your local residency and then come back three years later and all of a sudden realize you can’t participate in local government the way you’re otherwise capable.”

The motion passed with discussion that, in the future, the Council could amend the code of ordinances to have a clearer definition of “resident” that could be more inclusive of students and military.

Other business included communications wherein the Council held a discussion on NSEDC fund distribution. Manager Handeland suggested these funds be used for public safety. That decision must be made in a public meeting before December 21. Councilmember Reader wanted to be open to the public’s needs and ideas for how the funds should be spent and put forward a motion.

“A motion to allow organizations to provide a letter of request for the NSEDC benefit share.”

Though the city decides how the money is spent, Reader felt it would be beneficial to see what the community feels it needs. Those letters will be accepted and considered at the next City Council meeting.

Other unfinished business included an ordinance renaming the cemetery. It will now be known as Belmont Point Cemetery, returning to its original, twentieth-century name. The meeting was followed by a work session to discuss the Public Safety Advisory Board. The next regular meeting of the Nome Common Council will be December 10.

Image at top: public domain, via Pixabay.

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