Wal Mart Stores : WalMart calls state liquor laws discriminatory
Accusing Texas of discriminating against corporations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed new documents Thursday in state and federal courts as part of its push to sell liquor in Texas.
Provisions enforced by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission — especially one banning public companies, like Wal-Mart, from selling liquor — amount to unfairly protecting the interests of the state’s package stores, where hard alcohol is sold, Wal-Mart attorneys said as part of their answer to the state’s motions to have the cases tossed.
Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said the commission is intentionally discriminating against public companies and harming consumers.
“Their arguments, as well as inaction from some in the Legislature to stand for free market principles, make clear that it’s time for the courts to eliminate these protectionist laws that limit consumer choice for Texans and fair competition in the retail sale of spirits,” Lopez told the American-Statesman.
In the federal filing, Wal-Mart said provisions in the law contain “exceptions, loopholes, and workarounds that protect existing package stores.” The state’s biggest liquor store chains include Spec’s Family Partners and Twin Liquors, each of which hold dozens of package store permits.
Calls to the Texas Package Store Association were not returned. Cynthia Meyer, spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said the state lawyers are “reviewing the filing and will continue to defend Texas law.”
Lawyers from the Attorney General’s office said in a previous filing that, “Wal-Mart is asking this court to second-guess the judgment of the state’s legislators and find a constitutional problem where none exists.”
Wal-Mart began a two-pronged approach earlier this year in its effort to be allowed to sell hard alcohol in Texas. In February, the company filed lawsuits in state district court and federal court in Austin. The retailer also sought to change the law in the Legislature.
State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, filed House Bill 1225, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a R-North Richland Hills, filed Senate Bill 609 to end a state policy that prohibits publicly traded companies from selling booze and to eliminate the law restricting a business from owning or holding more than five package store permits. (Privately owned companies are able to hold dozens of permits by having multiple family members each hold five permits.)
Both measures failed.