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.