Lawyer: Politics led to denial

Published August 28, 2004

A state board’s decision to deny a liquor license to the son of a Whiteclay beer-seller was based more on politics than facts, an attorney told a Lincoln judge Friday.

Andrew Snyder, a Scottsbluff attorney representing Jason Schwarting, said the Liquor Control Commission should not have considered the possible role his client’s father, Don Schwarting, would have had in overseeing the Arrowhead Inn when it denied his son a liquor license in April.

“The facts in this case were not considered,” Snyder said in Lancaster County District Court. “They made their decision arbitrarily and unfairly.”

Judge Jeffre Cheuvront did not rule on Jason Schwarting’s appeal Friday.

Beer store owners in Whiteclay sold an estimated 427,000 gallons of beer in 2003, mostly to residents of the nearby dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, according to the liquor commission. The Arrowhead Inn’s closing was hailed by activists as a step toward solving problems of alcoholism on the reservation.

In April, the three-member commission voted 2-1 to deny transferring Don Schwarting’s license to his son.

At the time, commissioners based their decision on two alcohol sales-related offenses incurred by Jason Schwarting. Schwarting was found guilty of selling alcohol to an intoxicated person in 1998 and found guilty of selling alcohol on credit in 2001.

Commissioners also expressed concern in April that Don Schwarting would continue to help manage the store his son bought from him, despite being prevented from managing a liquor license because of a felony conviction.

Don Schwarting’s liquor license was revoked in March for selling cars without a car dealer’s license, a felony. Liquor license-holders cannot be convicted felons, according to state law.

Assistant Attorney General Melissa Johnson-Wiles, who represented the commission Friday, said commissioners were concerned about the timing of Jason Schwarting’s application and failed to believe Don Schwarting would have nothing to do with managing the business.

“Now, all of a sudden, Don Schwarting is not going to have anything to do with this license?” Johnson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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