Nebraska Panel Denies Whiteclay Liquor License Applications

Apr 19, 2017

A Nebraska commission is not renewing liquor licenses for stores along the South Dakota border near Pine Ridge. The town of Whiteclay has fewer than one dozen residents. Four businesses there sell millions of cans of beer each year. The liquor licenses expire at the end of the month, but the beer stores may stay open.

Native Americans from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota drink beer in Whiteclay, Nebraska. Witnesses say people who get drunk there urinate in public, assault others, and pass out on the streets.

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted three to zero to deny liquor licenses for four beer stores in Whiteclay. Hobert Rupe is the executive director of the commission.

"They voted to deny the reapplications, because they don’t believe there’s adequate law enforcement present in Whiteclay to ensure compliance with the act," Rupe says.

Rupe says commissioners started exploring the issue in the fall. He says they opted not to approve liquor license renewals and instead required the Whiteclay beer stores to reapply.

Two weeks ago the commission held an 11-hour evidentiary hearing. Rupe says that did not include moral arguments related to beer sales. He says the scope was adequate policing.

"It’s a very unique situation. It’s an unincorporated village, so there’s no local law enforcement. It’s just from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, which are located 25 miles away. Then compare that," Rupe says. Whiteclay is within walking distance of 4,000 to 5,000 people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is a dry Indian reservation."

The liquor licenses expire on April 30, 2017. Rupe says storeowners can appeal the ruling and ask for a stay. A judge may allow Whiteclay liquor stores to stay open and sell beer during an appeal.