A Nebraska District judge has overruled the Liquor Control Commission and will allow the four beer stores in Whiteclay to continue to operate.
Lancaster County District Judge Andrew Jacobsen has ruled the decision reached by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission was “arbitrary and unreasonable.” The ruling, according to the judge, violated the constitutional rights of the store owners by denying their applications for liquor license renewals without any dramatic change in how they do business.
The commission last week voted 3-0 to deny the four stores liquor licenses, claiming the region surrounding tiny Whiteclay in northwestern Nebraska lacked adequate law enforcement to police beer sales.
The four have long been accused of looking the other way as the equivalent of three-and-a-half million cans of beer a year cross the state line and end up in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which officially bans the sale and possession of alcohol. Pine Ridge has been wracked by poverty and alcoholism for years.
Gov. Pete Ricketts says the ruling doesn’t end the issue.
“I think this is a process that goes through. This is what everybody gets their opportunity to do and the Liquor Control Commission will have a chance to review the judge’s decision and decide if they want to take it forward,” Ricketts tells reporters.
The Liquor Control Commission can appeal the ruling.
State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon has worked to shut down the stores and make improvements to the unincorporated village.
“Well, I’d be denying the simple facts of the issue if I didn’t tell you I was disappointed beyond words,” Brewer tells reporters. “It seemed like for the first time in such a very long time there was positive news coming out of Whiteclay. It has been this dark, ugly place for so long.”
Brewer says he doesn’t want to be too judgmental about the ruling.
“I understand why he came to the conclusion, I just don’t full agree with it,” Brewer says.