There were heated moments at Tuesday’s Nebraska Liquor Commission meeting from those who want to close down four liquor stores located in the unincorporated town of Whiteclay. The community has about a dozen residents and four liquor stores. Whiteclay borders South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and their annual beer sales total about 4-million cans a year. Advocates want those liquor stores closed. Commissioner Bob Batt says their hands are tied.
Batt says, “What we can do is governed by the statutes of Nebraska. I cannot go in and say you are all closed. Everybody in America has the right to due process. That is the difficult part. Plus, we are dealing with the state of South Dakota. You are dealing with Pine Ridge and that is a sovereign nation and we have no control over them.”
Batt admits Whiteclay is a problem but says without proof they cannot act. He says, “The whole object here is to get evidence in order to take appropriate action if it is warranted. In my eight years not one witness, not one complaint has ever come forward from Pine Ridge, Whiteclay or Sheridan County. Without people to testify you cannot go forward.”
Batt says the Liquor Control Commission cannot bring people in. That is the job of the Attorney General’s office. He says they must bring forward the charges brought forth by the local law enforcement agencies. It is the Commission’s job to decide the appropriate penalties. Batt says if Sheridan County comes and they have the right under Nebraska statute to say we cancel the four beer store licenses, it would be all over. They have never done that.