Whiteclay beer store owner’s son seeks liquor license transfer

Published Saturday August 28, 2004
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LINCOLN (AP) – The Nebraska Liquor Commission made a political decision and not one based on the facts when it disallowed the owner of a Whiteclay beer store to transfer the liquor license to his son, an attorney argued Friday.

The commission had no evidence that warranted denial of the license transfer from Don Schwarting to Jason Schwarting, attorney Andrew Snyder of Scottsbluff argued during a hearing in Lancaster County District Court.

“There’s political considerations in this case,” Snyder said. “The facts in this case were not considered.”

Activists have fought for years against the sale of alcohol in the tiny border town of Whiteclay, which caters primarily to American Indians living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where alcohol is banned.

Denying the license transfer on a 2-1 vote was hailed by those activists as a positive step by reducing the number of beer-selling stores from four to three.

Snyder, in an appeal of that decision, asked Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront to reverse the commission’s action and give Jason Schwarting a license to run the Arrowhead Inn.

Cheuvront took the case under advisement without comment.

The commission simply did not believe that Don Schwarting would have no involvement in the business, said Assistant Attorney General Milissa Johnson-Wiles.

Don Schwarting lost the license to run the store in March after he was convicted of a felony for selling cars without a license. State law does not allow a convicted felon to hold a liquor license.

It was a concern that as soon as Don Schwarting lost the license his son proposed to run the store with no involvement from his father, Johnson-Wiles said.

Jason Schwarting, 26, said his father would still work part time as a clerk but would not be involved in the store’s operation. 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.

The commission believed that Don Schwarting would still have a financial interest in the store, Johnson-Wiles said.

There was no evidence to support that belief, Snyder told the judge: “They made a decision arbitrarily.”

The commission also did not believe that Jason Schwarting would abide by its rules and regulations because he had been found guilty of two violations in 1998 and 2001 in his capacity as a clerk at the store, Johnson-Wiles said.

Based on Jason Schwarting’s testimony at the commission hearing on the matter in April, in which he gave primarily one-word answers, the commission was not convinced he deserved to be given the license, she said.

“It was not the most persuasive testimony that he was going to do what he said he was going to do,” she said.

The store has been in the Schwarting family since 1980.

The liquor commission on Aug. 10 rejected a request to issue a fourth liquor license in Whiteclay for a new store.

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