Bar near Bear Butte has new owner

Sturgis, South Dakota (AP) 4-08

A circuit judge has approved an ownership change for the County Line Bar, an establishment north of Bear Butte that has been the focus of protests by American Indians.

The decision is subject to Meade County Commission approval.

Critics of the former owner, Jay Allen, said they would challenge the process before the commission.

“I’m very shocked that the judge made this decision so quickly,” said area resident Tamra Brennan. “I think this is really quite convenient that all of a sudden Jay Allen has sold or went into partnership with another company at the same time all this was going on, to avoid the revocation of the alcohol permit.”

In December, the county commission rejected Allen’s renewal application for an on-sale liquor license, citing character issues. Some contractors that did work for Allen at the bar claimed he had not paid them.

The new owner, Joe Murphy and Target Logistics, of Boston, cited a binding agreement with Allen to assume majority ownership of Allen’s holdings in Sturgis; Laconia, N.H., and Daytona, Fla., which would take effect around May 1.

Meade County Assistant State’s Attorney Ken Chleborad says it will take at least three weeks for the county commission’s decision because it will have to meet to set a hearing date, publish that date and wait at least 10 days before holding the hearing.

In 2006, Indians and others opposed the initial approval of a liquor license to Allen because his campground and concert area is within three miles of Bear Butte, a peak that is sacred to Indians.

Brennan, founder of Protect Sacred Sites, Indigenous People One Nation, said she was stunned that a scheduled two-day court hearing ended in less than half a day.

Nancy Hilding of Black Hawk, a spokeswoman for the Prairie Hills Chapter of the Audubon Society, said it seemed like legislating from the bench.

“If a government entity refuses to reissue a license because of character concerns, they find another owner and the county has to look at its refusal to reissue? You’re allowing everybody who gets their license yanked the ability to appeal, go out and find a new owner and get another chance,” Hilding said.