Whiteclay is an unincorporated town in northwest Nebraska, located less than 300 yards from the border of the Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Pine Ridge is an Indian Reservation where alcoholic beverages have been illegal for over 120 years. Whiteclay served as an outpost for non-Natives to sell alcoholic beverages to Pine Ridge’s tribal members.
The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission (NLCC) is the state agency responsible for issuing and renewing licenses to sell alcoholic beverages within the State of Nebraska. Most recently, the NLCC had authorized four different operators to sell beer in Whiteclay. Despite having fewer than 12 residents, Whiteclay’s four beer stores sold the equivalent of over 3.5 + million cans of beer (or 11,000 cans of beer per day) in 2016 alone.
Nebraska Statutes requires the NLCC to consider ten factors before issuing a beer license, including the population, traffic count, and sanitary conditions of the proposed location. Other factors included how many other retailers were already licensed to sell alcoholic beverages near the proposed location, known as retail outlet density, and whether government could provide adequate law enforcement at the proposed location.