State liquor board denies licenses to upstate NY tribe

Verona, New York (AP) 10-07

The state Liquor Authority said September 26th that it will not issue liquor licenses to the Oneida Nation while sovereignty issues between the tribe and the state remain unsettled.

The upstate New York tribe was seeking liquor licenses for its six golf related properties at its Turning Stone Casino and Resort complex in Verona, 35 miles east of Syracuse.

The liquor board had listened to more than an hour of opposition testimony at a hearing last month and Chairman Daniel Boyle said the panel reviewed large amounts of documentation on the applications.

“Numerous questions are raised as to whether the applicant is complying or must comply with state and local law and regulations,” Boyle said at a meeting in New York City.

“The authority is aware that the state and federal governments differ as to whether the property is on a reservation. There also are conflicting opinions as to whether the courts have clearly determined whether the property is on a reservation. It is not for this authority to make this determination, particularly while the issue is still being litigated,” he said.

Although it denied the Oneida’s applications, the authority said the tribe could reapply if the issues are resolved. Boyle also said the authority would continue to consider on a case-by-case basis catering permits that allow third parties to have alcohol on casino property.

“The federal district court already resolved this issue and it is not for a state to ignore it. This is reservation land,” the tribe said in a statement.

Nation spokesman Mark Emery said the tribe’s attorney, Peter Carmen, had addressed the reservation question in a seven-page letter sent to the authority in August. In that letter, Carmen contended that both the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court had issued rulings in 2003 and 2005, respectively, that effectively said the casino was located on reservation land.

Even in light of the decision, Emery said the tribe did not plan to withdraw its pending applications for liquor licenses for the casino’s nightclub and one of its hotels.

Turning Stone has been dry since it opened in 1993. The tribe has been trying to get a state liquor license for its restaurants and hotels since 1999, but the liquor authority has never acted on its applications.

This time the Oneidas were seeking liquor licenses for only the clubhouses at their championship golf courses – Atunyote, Kaluhyat and Shenendoah.

At the September meeting, Carmen told the authority that the resort’s growth was limited without alcohol.

During that meeting, a dozen opponents, speaking from Albany via a videoconference, urged the authority to deny the applications. They argued that the Oneidas routinely violated state laws by refusing to pay sales and property taxes and by operating the casino illegally. Opponents also said granting a liquor license to the Nation could harm other local businesses.