Liquor license for Whiteclay beer store will be lost May 1

Published April 22, 2004
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The tiny border town of Whiteclay will have one less beer-selling store under action taken Thursday by the state’s Liquor Control Commission.

The three-member panel voted against allowing the liquor license of the Arrowhead Inn to be transferred from the past owner to his son. The father, Don Schwarting, also lost an appeal of the revocation of his license which was done in March because he had been convicted of a felony for selling used cars without a license.

The Schwartings’ attorney, Andrew Snyder of Scottsbluff, declined to comment when asked after the hearing if he would appeal to the Lancaster County District Court.

Absent any appeals, or further attempts to transfer the liquor license to another person, the Arrowhead Inn will not be allowed to legally sell alcohol after April 30, said Hobert Rupe, director of the state Liquor Control Commission.

The apparent loss of one of four beer stores in the unincorporated village near the South Dakota border was hailed by advocates who have fought for years to stop alcohol sales there.

“This is very good news,” said Mark Vasina, president of Nebraskans for Peace. “I hope it’s an indication of a leaning by the liquor commission toward taking this issue seriously.”

The beer is sold primarily to the residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to about 15,000 Oglala Sioux, just a couple hundred feet across the border from Whiteclay.

Alcohol is banned on the reservation, and it’s also illegal to consume beer bought in the stores in Whiteclay on the streets or premises, which has led Vasina and others to call for more law enforcement efforts to crack down on public intoxication and open container violations.

Jason Schwarting, 26, had asked the commission to allow him to take over the license held by his father. The younger Schwarting said he had bought the business and property from his father, who had filed for bankruptcy, and any profits or losses from the beer sales would be his and not his dad’s.

Don Schwarting was working at the store as a clerk earning $5.25 an hour, Jason Schwarting said. The Arrowhead Inn has been in the Schwarting family since 1980, he said.

Jason Schwarting said he has worked at the store as a clerk for six years. In 1998 he was found guilty of selling alcohol to an intoxicated person and in 2001 he was guilty of selling alcohol on credit.

The commission voted 2-1 to deny the request to transfer the license to the younger Schwarting. Commissioner Richard Coyne of Omaha said he voted against it based on the character and reputation of the applicant.

There was also a concern that Jason Schwarting was trying to hide who the real owner of the business would be, Rupe said.

Voting with Coyne to deny the request was commission chairman Bob Logsdon of Lincoln. Commissioner Rhonda Flower of Gering voted to allow the license transfer.

Prior to the hearing, Byron Peterson with Nebraskans for Peace urged the commission not to allow the store to remain open.

“Don’t exacerbate the problem in Whiteclay by issuing yet another license there,” Peterson said. Given a lack of law enforcement in Whiteclay, granting a new license at this time “is a recipe for disaster,” Peterson said.

State Sen. Don Preister of Omaha also submitted a letter asking that the license not be given to the younger Schwarting.

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