- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska regulators decided on Tuesday to require stores in the northwestern Nebraska border village of Whiteclay to re-apply for liquor licenses and face tough requirements to continue selling millions of cans of beer a year to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission ordered all four beer-selling stores in the village to reapply if they want to retain their liquor licenses after this year.

The stores must show in the reapplication process that they can meet several state requirements, including the presence of adequate law enforcement to police the village.

Sheridan County Commissioner Jack Andersen last month told state lawmakers that local officials don’t have adequate law enforcement in Whiteclay, an unincorporated village of about a dozen people and four beer stores that sold the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer last year.

Whiteclay sits on the state line about two miles south of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the reservation’s main village. The reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is plagued by poverty, alcoholism and high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Activists who have sought for years to close the stores down lauded the commission’s vote Tuesday.

“They’re going to have to start from scratch, and the bar is set pretty high with this reapplication process,” said John Maisch, a former Oklahoma alcohol regulator who produced a documentary about the village. “Whiteclay is consuming 35 percent of Sheridan County’s law enforcement budget and almost all of its jail budget. That’s an undue concentration, which you consider the county has a population of 5,500 people, and only 14 of them are in Whiteclay.”

The stores will likely receive orders for reapplication this week, then will have 30 days to return the paperwork, said Nebraska Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Hobert Rupe.

Normally, the stores would have simply sent in a renewal fee and short renewal form in January. But the commission was swayed by Sheridan County officials’ concerns that there aren’t enough law enforcement officers to handle incidents resulting from intoxicated people outside the stores, Rupe said. That includes information that the Nebraska State Patrol was turning to grant fundraising to cover the cost of handling law enforcement issues in the village, he said.

Rupe said state law does not define “adequate law enforcement.”

“It’s very much an eye-of-the-beholder situation,” he said. “But there have been big concerns raised there.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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