Friday, July 4, 2008

Bear Butte bar gets nod for liquor license

Bear Butte bar gets nod for liquor license
By Andrew Gorder, Journal staff Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The 3-2 vote came after about an hour and a half of testimony from representatives of Target Logistics -- a Boston-based company that intends to buy the embattled campground -- and Native Americans, concerned citizens and other activists who support a development buffer or an alcohol ban near Bear Butte.

In recent years, opponents have regularly testified before the commission about their opposition to alcohol near the mountain. It is a sacred landmark and prayer site for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and other Native American tribes.

"I'm really disappointed that the Meade County commissioners did not take all of us into account," said Tamra Brennan, director and founder of grass-roots group Protect Sacred Sites.

The Broken Spoke Campground, formerly known as Sturgis County Line, has been in a fight to renew its on-sale liquor and beer licenses since commissioners voted to deny them last year. The campground, northeast of Sturgis, is within 1-1/2 miles of Bear Butte.

Former owner Jay Allen lost the beer license for his campground last June after commissioners received complaints from local contractors who claimed they had not been paid by Allen.

Alcohol licenses can be denied on the basis of the character of the owner-operator or the location of the venue.

In December, the commission also rejected Allen's renewal application for an on-sale liquor license, again citing unsettled debts with contractors.

Allen appealed the decision, and on April 4, Circuit Court Judge John Bastian ruled the county commission must reconsider its decision because of the proposed change in ownership.

Target Logistics is an international company that provides housing, transportation and hospitality services. It intended to buy controlling interest in the venue several months ago but was leasing the property until the liquor license issue was settled.

Representatives of the firm said that, when the sale is final, Allen will have a 30 percent, noncontrolling interest in the campground.

During Tuesday's hearing, commissioners heard from several character references for David Shue, an employee of Target Logistics and the newly hired managing officer for Sturgis County Line LLC.

Shue, a former director of operations for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, spoke on his own behalf, highlighting his service in Iraq and Afghanistan and promising to be a "good neighbor."

Commissioners also heard from several concerned Meade County residents and Native American activists who urged them to deny the alcohol licenses.

Opponents mainly voiced concerns about the growing size of the campground and its encroachment on Bear Butte. They said they believed the new owners will only continue the expansion.

"The new investors, Target Logistics, have already proceeded with plans for additional development and expansion," Brennan said. "We've had a drought for the last eight years, and here they're building the world's biggest biker pool," she said.

"We love this land, and we don't want anything to happen to it," said Jace DeCory, another concerned resident.

After hearing testimony, Commissioner Dean Wink said he sympathized with opponents but did not agree that the location of the venue was the issue at hand. Wink said most of Allen's debts being settled was reason enough for him approve the license.

"I think that probably shows a good faith effort on the part of Target Logistics, to be a good business for this area," Wink said.

Commissioner Dayle Hammock said he did not feel comfortable with Jay Allen's continued involvement with the company and sponsored a motion to deny the license. That motion failed, and the committee then voted to renew the license.

"They're basically standing behind corporate America," said Brennan, who also said her organization plans to appeal the commission's decision. "We're not done."

In peace & solidarity,
Tamra Brennan
Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation

"Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage and our lands; what’s left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten?"

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