Update: on Thursday, April 26, a judge ruled that the Nebraska Liquor Control
Commission overstepped their grounds, and granted the liquor stores the
ability to renew their license. However, later that same day the Attorney
General's office appealed the judge's decision, once again revoking
the store's ability to renew their license. The case will now likely
move on to an appeal's court, but the stores need to once again attempt
to receive a stay in order to keep selling alcohol until the case can
be resolved, likely once it reaches the Nebraska Supreme Court.
"The issue now will be: can the store owners get a stay of the liquor
commission order from the court of appeals or the supreme court - not
having obtained one in the district court," Domina said.
While the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission unanimously voted to deny
the renewal of liquor licenses for four liquor stores in Whiteclay, NE
last week, the legal battle is far from over. The store owners already
announced their intention to appeal the decision, which may mean that
the stores won’t close for quite some time, if at all.
When Will The Stores Stop Selling Alcohol?
Potentially never if the appeal is successful. The current liquor licenses
are valid through April 30, and their attorney will likely ask a judge
to allow the stores to remain open while the appeals process is taking
place. The judge will weigh the potential harm to the public versus the
potential harm to the businesses when making their decision, and if the
appeal overturns the original decision then the stores will remain open.
What Happens During The Appeals Process?
The first round of appeals will start in the Lancaster County District
Court, but attorney David Domina, who represents the residents opposing
the liquor license renewals, stated that he expects the court battle to
continue up through the courts until it reaches the Nebraska Supreme Court,
a process that could take years.
While rulings from the state Supreme Court are final, rulings overturning
the initial decision from any other lower court will likely result in
an appeal from either those opposed to the licenses or the state itself.
In addition to this current fight to renew liquor licenses, the Nebraska
Attorney General’s Office accused the liquor stores of violating
a number of Nebraska laws, including selling to bootleggers which could
result in a number of other legal consequences.
These Stores May Close, But Won’t People Just Drive Further To Buy Alcohol?
Most people agrees that the closure of these stores won’t solve the
problem with alcoholism the Oglala Lakota people are currently facing,
but activists argue that closing down the stores closes to the reservation
will cut off a key source of alcohol for bootleggers in Pine Ridge. The
liquor stores argue that this simply means people will drive further to
purchase alcohol and increase the number of drunk drivers on the road,
though these stores are considerably farther away than the few hundred
feet those looking for alcohol need to travel to Whiteclay and far more
difficult to reach.
Alcoholism Is A Serious Issue – What’s Being Done To Address It?
While cutting off the most convenient source of alcohol will potentially
help this issue, the Oglala Lakota Tribe has been fighting this issue
for years. A big obstacle is the lack of funding, but Nebraska has finally
started to take a closer look at Whiteclay and the surrounding areas in
order to find more ways to help. A task force will likely be approved
by the State Legislature sometime this year to address public health issues
in the area and look at possible solutions, including educational opportunities,
workforce development agencies and treatment centers.