RAPID CITY, S.D. – Commissioners in South Dakota's Mellette County have rejected a sheriff's deputy's plans to sell liquor in a town near American Indian reservations, including one that is suing some of the worlds' largest beer makers.
The last bar in the small town of Norris closed about six years ago. Pennington County Deputy Dallas Kendrick wanted to reopen a gas station in the town of 150 people and section off part of it to serve alcohol, the Rapid City Journal reported. Norris is about a mile from the Pine Ridge Reservation and about six miles from the Rosebud Reservation.
Mellette commissioners denied the liquor license request after a public hearing Tuesday that drew several opponents of Kendrick's plan, including Rosebud Sioux President Rodney Bordeaux.
"I know this young man wants to get a business started," he said. "But it's going to hurt our people in a way that's hard to recover from."
The Oglala Sioux Tribe recently sued several beer makers and asked a judge to restrict alcohol sales in a Nebraska town that border the Pine Ridge Reservation, saying they are all knowingly contributing to alcohol-related problems at the reservation.
"Is Mellette County next in line to be sued by the Oglala Sioux Tribe?" said Joyce Glynn, whose son died in 2006 in an alcohol-related car crash.
Kendrick said that as a deputy he has seen many problems caused by alcohol but that they are not confined to the Pine Ridge Reservation or low-income communities. He said he would not be advocating drunkenness by selling alcohol.
"You're not forcing people to over-consume. It would be a nice service if someone wanted to have a beer or two after a hard day's work," he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Kendrick said he intended the business to be primarily a gas station that sold alcohol on the side to help make it profitable. He said he also does not see a problem with making alcohol available to Norris-area residents.
"It's our right as American citizens -- the right to choose," he said.