Here at the top of the world, where North Slope tundra gives way to Arctic Ocean, it's achingly cold, dark without relief and, thanks to voters, totally dry.

Bars and liquor stores in the nation's northernmost community were shuttered in the late 1970s, but personal imports had been permitted. Two months ago, voters narrowly approved total prohibition to try to curb alcohol-related suicide, violence, accidents and birth defects.Ban boosters are enthusiastic, saying domestic disturbances are already way down and attendance is up at community gatherings.

"We've seen some people at these events stone sober that I don't think I've ever seen sober," said Ed Ward, deputy police chief of the North Slope Borough.

But foes of the ban on alcoholic cheer for the holidays, and all other days, bemoan the lack of things to do over a sunless winter and complain about infringements on personal freedom.

They collected the required 432 signatures to force second votes on ballot questions regarding possession and importation, hoping to force a return to "damp" status.

On Thursday, the City Council picked Feb. 21 for a special election on the alcohol ban. Don Long, Barrow's mayor, favors the ban and says he'll veto the election date before the council's Thursday meet-ing.

But the council has the four votes needed to override the veto. If the veto is not overridden, ban opponent Tom Nicolos says there may be court action to try to force the election.

Nicolos is maintenance manager for Cape Smythe Air and a prime member of the Barrow Freedom Committee, which is organizing the repeal effort.

"If someone comes to my home, it's nice to be sociable and be able to offer them a beer or glass of wine," Nicolos said.

There's no sunlight from Nov. 18 to Jan. 24. A few hours of twilight straddle noon, followed by a midnight-deep shroud that descends by 4 p.m. In the darkness, blowing snow and the billowing exhausts of idling autos glow in the yellow light cast by mercury and tungsten lamps lining streets of hard-packed snow. Temperatures can dip to a piercing 50 below zero.

Drinking has been a customary way to pass time in Barrow. So choosing to do without is worthy of note, although the vote's significance lies less in Barrow's being the largest town in Alaska to go dry or the last one in the Minnesota-sized North Slope Borough than in its relatively diverse population.

About 80 Alaska Native communities ranging from 50 to 800 people had already banned booze.