Whiteclay goes quiet as liquor stores near reservation shut down

The new Whiteclay? Two businesses in Rushville, Nebraska, saw a boost in liquor sales, according to news reports, after beer stopped flowing in Whiteclay on April 30, 2017. Photo: Don Barrett

Liquor is no longer flowing in a small town near the Pine Ridge Reservation for the first time in more than a century.

But the closure of the outlets in Whiteclay, while historic, was largely uneventful, according to the Nebraska media. Activists who showed up to the town to provide detoxification services found almost no one around on Monday morning, a day after the shutdown.

"Probably the first good thing those beer stores have done for Pine Ridge," treatment specialist Matt Walz told The Lincoln Journal-Star.

But the situation was a lot different 20 miles down the road, in a city called Rushville. According to the reports, two businesses there saw a huge increase in liquor sales on Sunday.

“We know that anyone with money and transportation will find a place to get alcohol,” Bryan Brewer, a former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who supports the closure of the Whiteclay stores, told The Omaha World-Herald. “We just hope that the law enforcement in Nebraska will step up to help keep everyone safe.”

Brewer was present when the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted 3-0 to revoke the licenses of the Whiteclay stores on April 19. The victory was short-lived: a week later, a judge set aside the decision and ordered the licenses to be reinstated.

But then came another break in the case. On April 28, the state filed an appeal under a law that put the judge's ruling on hold for up to six months, forcing the stores to shut down because their licenses expired at midnight on Sunday.

Liquor sales began in Whiteclay in the early 1900s after then-president Theodore Roosevelt withdrew the land from a buffer zone adjacent to the reservation, where alcohol is outlawed. Fewer than a dozen people live full-time in the town, where millions of cans of beer are sold every year.

Read More on the Story:
With little fanfare, Whiteclay's four beer store (The Omaha World-Herald 5/1)
Whiteclay beer store owner says today feels like a 'punch in the gut' (The Omaha World-Herald 5/1)
Whiteclay beer stores close a day early (The Lincoln Journal Star 4/30)

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