Advocates of beer-free Whiteclay aim to seize chance

Published April 2, 2004
BY NANCY HICKS
LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

The owner of one of the four beer stores in Whiteclay has lost his liquor license, and his son is trying to take over the business.

But Nebraskans for Peace and at least one state senator are encouraging the Liquor Control Commission to close down the operation, one of four off-sale stores in the small town that cater to a nearby Native reservation.

“Here is an opportunity for the Liquor Control Commission to take some positive action in Whiteclay, and I hope and trust that they will do that,” Omaha Sen. Don Preister said.

The Liquor Control Commission this month canceled the liquor license of Donald Schwarting, owner of Arrowhead Inn, after learning Schwarting is a convicted felon. Schwarting was found guilty of selling cars without a license, a Class IV felony, by the Sheridan County District Court in September 2003.

A person convicted of a felony cannot have a liquor license under state law, according to Hobert Rupe, liquor control commission executive director.

For several years, Nebraskans for Peace and several Native leaders have asked the liquor commission and state leaders to stop alcohol sales in Whiteclay, a tiny town that borders the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation bans alcohol.

A state trooper in the area heard Schwarting had been convicted and did an investigation, Rupe said.

Donald Schwarting’s son, Jason, an employee at the Arrowhead Inn, has applied for a liquor license, hoping to take over his father’s business, according to commission records.

However Jason Schwarting was an employee and involved in two violations at the Arrowhead Inn, selling alcohol to an intoxicated person in 1998 and selling alcohol on credit in August 2001, according to agency records. The business paid $2,500 in fines for the two violations.

The commission has scheduled an April 22 hearing on Jason Schwarting’s application because of the earlier violations and his close association with the current license holder, Rupe said.

People with a liquor license have to show a willingness to abide by the rules of the commission, he said. Commissioners often have questions when the replacement license request comes from a family member.

There are concerns that there might be a financial interest or involvement by someone who is no longer able to have a license, he said.

Don Schwarting asked for a rehearing on the license cancellation, which guarantees the business can remain open until the April commission meeting and the hearing on the new license.

“This is an opportunity to put this issue in the forefront and refuse to grant a new license,” said Tim Rinne, Nebraskans for Peace statewide coordinator.

The entire situation is ludicrous, he said. “In a town of 14 people, four off-sale business are selling over 11,000 cans of beer a day to an Indian clientele that has no legal way to drink it.”

For several years, the Liquor Control Commission has asked the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee for increased law enforcement in Whiteclay during the hours liquor is sold because there is not adequate law enforcement, Rinne said.

But the state did not respond to that request.

“And how do we get a license canceled?” he said. Not because law enforcement was able to find liquor law violations, but because someone is “selling used cars without a license.”

“It’s a situation where you have to laugh or you will cry,” he said.

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