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Walmart Sues Texas Over Liquor Sales — Again

A vehicle drives into the parking lot of a Walmart store.
Julia Reihs
Walmart has filed suit against Texas in a state district court saying that the Texas Beverage Code barring the store chain from selling liquor is unconstitutional.

Walmart is not ready to give up on liquor sales in Texas.

The world's largest retailer can sell beer and wine at its Texas stores, but it can't sell liquor under state law. Walmart's attempts to argue before federal courts that the state's code on alcohol sales is unconstitutional have failed, so it will now take that matter before Texas courts.

Walmart filed suit in an Austin state district court Tuesday in the hopes of overturning the code and allowing liquor sales at its 588 Walmart and Sam's Club locations statewide. The suit argues that the Texas Beverage Code gives other businesses preferential treatment.

Walmart finds itself in the same lot as other major box stores in Texas. The code favors smaller liquor stores and prohibits larger, publicly-traded companies like Walmart and Kroger from selling liquor. It also prohibits privately-traded companies — like H-E-B and Tom Thumb — from doing so, unless they have fewer than 35 shareholders.

Walmart sued Texas in federal court in 2015, arguing that the code was discriminatory and violated the Commerce Clause. A federal judge in Austin sided with Walmart in 2018, but the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission appealed that decision before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which largely ruled in the state's favor. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case late last year.

Walmart argues that Texas is the only state that does not allow it to sell liquor in its stores because it's publicly traded.

A spokesperson for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which licenses and regulates the sale of alcohol in Texas, would not comment on the suit.

Corrected: June 30, 2021 at 8:56 AM CDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Texas is the only state that does not allow Walmart to sell liquor in its stores. According to Walmart, it can't sell liquor in more than a dozen states. The company argues that Texas is the only one that puts limits on its alcohol sales because it's publicly traded.
Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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