Beer store near reservation loses license

Published Friday April 22, 2004

LINCOLN (AP) – The owner of one of four beer-selling stores in the border town of Whiteclay has lost his liquor license after being convicted of a felony.

Revocation of the license was welcome news to advocates who have been pushing for years to stop alcohol sales in Whiteclay, which sells most of its alcohol to American Indians who live across the state line on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the Liquor Control Commission to push this issue to the forefront and say we’re not going to grant any more licenses in Whiteclay,” said Tim Rinne, statewide coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace.

Don Schwarting, owner of the Arrowhead Inn, had his license revoked March 8 by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

Schwarting was convicted in September in Sheridan County District Court and fined $1,000 for selling used cars without a license, which is a felony, said Hobert Rupe, commission director.

State law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from holding a liquor license.

Schwarting has asked for a rehearing before the Liquor Control Commission at its April 22 meeting.

Rupe said Schwarting also wants to have the liquor license transferred to his son Jason.
Jason Schwarting works at the store and was the employee responsible for two prior liquor-related violations at the Arrowhead Inn, Rupe said.

In 1998 Jason Schwarting sold alcohol to an intoxicated person, and in 2001 he sold alcohol on credit, both of which are violations of state law, Rupe said.

“He’s got a history of being the actual employee violating the liquor law,” Rupe said.

Because of that history, Jason Schwarting’s request to become the new license holder will also be considered at the April meeting, Rupe said.

When reached at the store and asked about the request, Jason Schwarting said, “I’m kind of busy right now,” before hanging up.

Don Schwarting did not immediately return a message left at his home in Gordon.
Alcohol sales can continue at the Arrowhead Inn while the appeal is pending, Rupe said.

Whiteclay has been in the news for years because of the estimated 11,000 cans of beer a day stores there sell to residents of the reservation, where alcohol is banned. About 15,000 Oglala Sioux live on the 5,000-square-mile reservation.

Rinne and other advocates have argued for years that there is inadequate law enforcement in Whiteclay and that the beer stores should be shut down.

A bill (LB 995) introduced this year in the Legislature would prohibit any new liquor licenses in Whiteclay unless there are adequate police patrols, public restrooms are installed and there is a bar where people can go to drink.

The bill is stuck in committee and will not be debated this session.

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