Whiteclay Stores Can’t Sell Alcohol Unless They Pay for Cops

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission decided there’s not enough control of alcohol in Whiteclay. This week the commission rejected applications to renew liquor licenses in the reservation border town.

This decision was no moral crusade to save Indians on the dry Pine Ridge Reservation from drunkenness, says commission exec Hobert Rupe:

“They voted to deny the reapplications, because they don’t believe there’s adequate law enforcement present in Whiteclay to ensure compliance with the act,” Rupe says.

…Two weeks ago the commission held an 11-hour evidentiary hearing. Rupe says that did not include moral arguments related to beer sales. He says the scope was adequate policing.

“It’s a very unique situation. It’s an unincorporated village, so there’s no local law enforcement. It’s just from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, which are located 25 miles away. Then compare that,” Rupe says. Whiteclay is within walking distance of 4,000 to 5,000 people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is a dry Indian reservation” [Kealey Bultena, “Nebraska Panel Denies Whiteclay Liquor License Applications,” SDPB Radio, 2017.04.19].

There is certainly a moral component to alcohol sales in Whiteclay. Making money by facilitating alcoholism just isn’t right.

But the Nebraska commission is focusing on a practical aspect of the market. Nebraska is able to exploit its proximity to the reservation and reap all the benefits while sticking Pine Ridge and South Dakota with almost all of the costs. If a community is going to engage in business that has predictable law-enforcement costs, that community should budget for those costs. If a town (or, technically, in this case, a cluster of shops that don’t file papers to become a town) has the wherewithal to sell millions of cans of beer each year, it has a duty to pay for a police force to regulate what inevitably happens when people buy and consume those millions of cans of beer. Don’t think of that requirement as a moral argument; think of it as a simple expression of the cost of doing business.

The four Whiteclay stores plan to appeal the denial.

19 Responses to Whiteclay Stores Can’t Sell Alcohol Unless They Pay for Cops

  1. Pine Ridge ought to lift its prohibition of liquor sales. Prohibition has not worked.

  2. What?! Ruby red Nebraska wants to clamp down on businesses privatizing the profits and socializing the expenses? Maybe South Dakota should try that.

  3. Don Coyote

    @cah: “Making money by facilitating alcoholism just isn’t right.”

    Then any liquor store anywhere is “facilitating” alcoholism.

    “If a community is going to engage in business that has predictable law-enforcement costs, that community should budget for those costs.”

    Really? Aren’t these businesses already paying taxes for law enforcement? Is it the responsibility of a business that is engaging in legal off-sale alcohol sales to insure how that product is used once it has left it’s premises? In fact it appears that it is a dereliction of duty of the sheriff’s department failure to write citations for open containers that contributes to the problem.

    And just how big an alcohol prohibition zone is Nebraska required to provide for Pine Ridge so it no longer is facilitating alcoholism on the reservation?

  4. W R Old Guy

    The RCJ reports that the Sheriff said they had adequate resources for policing White Clay. The board disputed the sheriff’s opinion.

    The bootleggers are probably cheering the decision as they can up their prices. Some of the “regulars” in White Clay are already talking about moving to Rushville or Gordon so they can continue their alcohol addiction.

  5. Daniel Buresh

    Nothing changes to reduce alcoholism and traffic deaths go up….liberals applaud

    Cory, what does this fix? Why do you think this is the right thing to do?

  6. Porter Lansing

    This correlates to the need for beer companies to refuse to participate in the health risks caused by their product in this unique part of USA.
    ~ OKLAHOMA CITY» The Cherokee Nation sued distributors and retailers of opioid medications on Thursday, alleging the companies have contributed to “an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse” within the tribe and have not done enough to prevent tribal members from acquiring illegally prescribed opioid painkillers.
    The lawsuit alleges that six distribution and pharmacy companies have created conditions in which “vast amounts of opioids have flowed freely from manufacturers to abusers and drug dealers” within the 14 northeastern Oklahoma counties that make up the Cherokee Nation.
    The tribe argues the companies regularly turn a “blind eye” to opioid prescriptions that would require further investigation before pills are dispensed. The lawsuit also alleges the companies have pursued profits instead of trying to reduce opioid-related addiction that has taken the lives of hundreds of Cherokee citizens and cost the tribe hundreds of millions of dollars in health care costs.

  7. Whiteclay – population 14 – is not a “community”, Mr. Coyote. It’s a road lined with liquor stores. Whiteclay has no problems requiring police intervention other than those problems involving the liquor stores and their customers.

    Sheriff’s deputies in Whiteclay are essentially functioning as private security for the liquor stores, but the liquor stores aren’t paying market rate for private security. It’s a unique situation for a unique place.

  8. W R Old Guy


    The Cherokee Nation may have a case. West Virginia has sued the drug distributors for violating both state and federal law. Several distributors have already paid fines for violating federal law.


  9. Don Coyote

    @Rorschah: ” It’s a unique situation for a unique place.”

    I doubt that. There are many examples of dry counties/communities bordering wet counties/communities in the country. You only have to look to the South to find examples.


    While Whiteclay is not incorporated it’s denizens still pay property taxes to Sheridan County which is responsible for policing the county organized or not.

    If you require the stores to provide private security are you also going to empower those security forces with the police powers to write citations, detain and arrest? Also will those powers extend beyond the stores property?

  10. mike from iowa

    Trying to force socialized police on capitalists? Over koch bros dead bodies.

  11. Roger Elgersma

    Not to mention that the treaty says that there will be no alcohol sales within fifty miles of the rez. Just forget about enforcing treaties as usual and wonder why things do not work right.

  12. Roger Cornelius

    Much of my life was spent living in Pine Ridge or in a rural area of the sand hills just east of Pine Ridge and I was to witness the daily decay of White Clay. At one time White Clay was a thriving business community that served the Pine Ridge with various service like groceries, gas stations, auto part stores, etc and what we called back than ‘beer joints’.
    When the decision came down to deny the liquor licenses to these stores I applauded. White Clay not only has a law and order problem, it has a serious public health problem. The business and property owners do nothing to maintain their properties. They have contributed to public health concerns by allowing sheds and decrepit building to exist and become homes to the homeless alcoholics that roam the streets.
    If the Sheridan County Sheriff’s office needs to respond to an issue in White Clay they must make a round trip of 48 miles from Rushville. The beer stores in White Clay make a enough in sales and taxes to afford to have a village deputy sheriff if they weren’t so tight fisted. The problem being is that the sheriff’s office doesn’t want to pay for gas and the time to respond to an issue in White Clay.
    A few years back the tribe held a referendum to allow alcohol on the reservation, they have failed to act on that vote and the status to proceed is unknown.

  13. Roger Cornelius

    Roger E.
    That treaty was later amended to allow for a 5 mile buffer zone, the buffer zone was called no man’s land for years and as far as I know stills exist, but lacks enforcement.

  14. mike from iowa

    Roger C- mutual friend Deb G is becoming a pretty good artist in case you haven’t conversed with her lately.

    My humblest apologies for the OT.

  15. Douglas Wiken

    Licenses to buy alcohol should be required.

    The problem is not just at Whiteclay, it is a tribal cultural problem and as usual are blaming everybody but themselves.

    Anyway, shutting those bars down is a good idea.

  16. Roger Cornelius

    White Clay does not have any bars, they have off-sale only.
    To think that alcohol is a tribal cultural problem is ridiculous, like any other alcoholic anywhere, alcohol is an addiction problem.

  17. Roger Cornelius

    I’ll have to connect with Deb, haven’t talked to her for sometime now.

  18. Bob Newland

    @cah: “Making money by facilitating alcoholism just isn’t right.”

    Really, Cory, seriously?

    I say that making money by facilitating egomaniac politicians just isn’t right. Campaign advisors and managers should be imprisoned.

  19. mike from iowa

    Newland- you have a strong case if you claim “making money by facilitating egomaniac politicians just isn’t right.” It violates your sincerely held religious beliefs and wingnuts will hop right on it and make capitalism go away. Unless they mean to be hypocrites about the whole thing.