Sheridan County renews Whiteclay liquor licenses

By Scott Bauer / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Three Whiteclay stores will be able to continue selling beer despite complaints filed by American Indians and others.

The Sheridan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Monday automatically renewing liquor licenses for the three stores located in the town of Whiteclay, which is just across the border from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Alcohol is banned on the reservation, and activists have complained for years
that selling beer in Whiteclay only exacerbates problems for the 15,000 Oglala Sioux living across the border. The reservation has one of the nation’s highest alcoholism-related mortality rates.

American Indian activists and others rallied in Rushville last week to oppose
the license renewals.

The commission could have required the three stores – Mike’s Pioneer Service, Jumping Eagle Inn and State Line Liquor – to apply with the state Liquor
Control Commission to have their licenses renewed.

But the commission, in its unanimous vote, cited a Nebraska Supreme Court decision that said a license must be renewed if the applicant is qualified to receive it, the store is the same as that which currently holds the license and the premises are suitable for the sale of alcohol.

Mark Vasina, president of Nebraskans for Peace, said Monday that he did not know whether the commissioner’s decision could or would be appealed. Other complaints against the Whiteclay beer stores are being investigated, Vasina said.

“We expect to file another complaint against perhaps two of the liquor stores in Whiteclay, if not three, within the next couple months,” he said.

The three stores sell an estimated 12,000 cans of beer a day.

Vasina had argued before the commissioners that there is inadequate law enforcement in Whiteclay, the stores sell to minors and intoxicated people and patrons are allowed to drink in public.

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