WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Ole Red Barn liquor, near the small Navajo community of Nahata Dziil, has been closed since Jan. 8, after the Arizona Liquor License Board denied the transfer of two liquor licenses owned by Gary McDonald.
The Renewal of Hope Task Force, a group of local community members who banded together to oppose the liquor establishments, said they have witnessed improvements in their communities since the closure of Ole Red Barn and another nearby liquor business known as Lee's Liquor.
"It has a positive impact on the community and the community is starting a healing process. Community members are being active in cleaning up the liquor bottles and trash in the area," said Renewal of Hope Task Force member Ina Noggle.
In March 2014, the Navajo Nation Council's Naabik'iyátí' Committee passed a resolution supporting the Renewal of Hope Task Force's opposition to the renewal and transfer of the liquor licenses owned by Gary McDonald, recently sentenced to a term of one year and three months for felony drug charges.
"Renewal of Hope Task Force members came to the Navajo Nation Council last year seeking support to close the liquor establishments," said Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse'Daa'Kaan, Upper Fruitland). "The Council is proud to say that with the tremendous contributions of community members, we are closer than ever to having Red Barn and Lee's Liquor closed for good."
Although the efforts have been successful to date, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Leonard Gorman pointed out that Arizona liquor laws make it very difficult to shut down a liquor business.
"Throughout the nine month process, it became clear that when a location is approved for liquor sales in Arizona, it is nearly impossible to remove liquor sales from that specific location" Gorman said. "You can take away the liquor licenses from a location, but if the place is pre-approved another liquor license can move in to start business again at the same location."
Nahat'ahdzil and Sanders community members are now looking at the possibility of bringing new businesses to the area.
"We want a restaurant where families can come together, a hay and grain store would also benefit the community," Noggle said.