Near reservation, beer, liquor sales up
WHITECLAY, Neb. — Some Nebraska communities near an American Indian reservation where alcohol is banned have seen liquor sales boom since beer stores shuttered at a tiny nearby village that long served as the reservation’s watering hole, according to figures from the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.
The agency asked for data from distributors after ordering an end to beer sales in the community of Whiteclay in April. The figures show that overall beer sales in northwestern Nebraska counties have declined, but specific towns have seen liquor sales more than triple between April and June, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Whiteclay, on the Nebraska border, is next to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Rushville, a town about 20 miles south of Whiteclay, reported sales of more than 3,700 gallons of beer in April and nearly 13,000 gallons of beer in June.
Whiteclay had drawn criticism for selling alcohol so close to the reservation, attracting dozens of people a day who drank, passed out and sometimes fought in public. Supporters of closing its beer stores argued that nearby communities with larger populations and the ability to pass local liquor ordinances could better police alcohol sales.
“We haven’t heard the complaints” from those larger communities about the vagrancy, violence and drunken behavior that used to cover Whiteclay, Nebraska Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Hobert Rupe said Thursday.
Opponents of the commission’s decision said it hurts the Whiteclay stores’ owners and won’t help problems with alcohol on the reservation.
“Closing the stores is not … solving the problem, clearly,” said Rushville Mayor Chris Heiser. “The good people in Pine Ridge are still going to get their alcohol.”
The liquor store owners in Whiteclay have challenged the closings. The Nebraska Supreme Court has a hearing scheduled for Aug. 29.