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Whiteclay's Liquor Licenses Were Denied, But What Happens Now?

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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 its 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 agree 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 close 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.

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