Whiteclay liquor store fight goes before Nebraska Supreme Court

Posted at 2:53 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-29 18:19:56-04

The fight over the liquor stores in Whiteclay went before the Nebraska Supreme Court on Tuesday.

3 News Now was there the weekend in April when the four liquor stores in town lost their licenses.

FULL COVERAGE: Whiteclay liquor stores

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission ruled then the stores liquor licenses would not be renewed and expired April 30. A district judge overturned that ruling saying the LCC was out of bounds which prompted the Attorney General’s office to file an appeal with the Nebraska Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, people in favor of the liquor stores closing down, like Julie Nichols of Lincoln, stood gathered outside the capitol steps after the 40-minute hearing. 

“If the court rules for the Whiteclay liquor store owners, they effectively, completely hogtie the commission,” she said.

Nichols said she is in support of closing down the stores because she, like so many, feel they are a danger to the dry Pine Ridge reservation, just a walking distance away from Whiteclay.

“We need to crush the myth of the drunk Indian,” she said.

The state Supreme Court heard testimony from each side. The state’s argument is the LCC’s decision to not renew the liquor licenses should stand, mainly because there is not enough law enforcement to support the needs of the town of Whiteclay.

“The statue says that at any time, the commission may require a licensee to submit an application,” said James Smith with the Attorney General’s office.

The liquor stores argue the LCC ruling was out of their jurisdiction.

“The lack of law enforcement or perceived lack of law enforcement is not something a liquor license can violate,” said Andrew Snyder, who is representing the Whiteclay area liquor stores.

Nichols said the emotions are raw in this case, and that she prays for the reservation; “a prayer for Pine Ridge and for all the suffering,” she said.

The decision now lies with the Nebraska Supreme Court, they will have to decide if the liquor stores will be able to renew their licenses.