Liquor is allowed at the Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina. Photo: Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort

Eastern Cherokees weigh expansion of liquor sales beyond gaming enterprise

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is debating whether to authorize liquor sales beyond the tribe's gaming facilities in North Carolina.

In 2009, tribal citizens authorized liquor at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Based on comments made during tribal council work session on Monday evening, support is growing for another referendum to address sales elsewhere on the reservation, The Cherokee One Feather reported.

“It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people,” Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said during the session, The One Feather reported. “There’s been a lot of damage that people have sustained in their lives. At the end of the day, the referendum gives the vote to the people. I’m in full support of a referendum vote.”

Part of the reason for a new referendum stems from circumstances beyond the tribe's control, The Smoky Mountain News reported. Since the state can regulate liquor, even in Indian Country, the tribe has to abide by a state law that requires permits to be issued to hotels and restaurants within 1.5 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a major highway that runs through the reservation. One-time permits for festivals and events are also allowed.

Since Sneed took office in May following the impeachment of his predecessor, four such permits have been issued, the paper said. His predecessor had refused to allow such permits without a vote of the people. Sneed said the tribe could be punished by the state for failing to follow the law, the paper reported.

The tribal council is set to consider a new referendum at its December 7 meeting, The One Feather reported.

Liquor is also sold at Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel, a smaller property on the reservation, according to the facility's rewards program.

Read More on the Story:
Overwhelming support for alcohol referendum shown at meeting (The Cherokee One Feather November 7, 2017)
Newly issued alcohol permits cause backlash against off-casino sales (The Smoky Mountain News November 1, 2017)
Alcohol referendum idea debated, tabled by Council (The Cherokee One Feather October 27, 2017)