NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A big win for Walmart in federal court could open the door for it to start selling liquor.
The retailer sued the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, accusing the state’s liquor laws of unfairly discrimination against out of state companies.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman agreed, finding parts of the law unconstitutional.
Texas currently prevents publicly traded companies from getting a liquor store license. It also bars most liquor store owners from operating more than five locations, but leaves a giant loophole for companies like Spec’s, which holds about 158 permits.
Walmart’s victory in court, though, has local liquor stores nervous.
“Today’s a sad day for small liquor stores,” said Shaun Ganji, who owns the Beverage Depot’s three locations in Dallas.
Ganji says Walmart could drastically drive down the price of liquor.
If that happens, it would be hard for shops like his to compete.
“I’m just… I don’t want to say a bad word,” he said struggling for the right expression. “I’m messed up. I’m shut down.”
In the long-term, Ganji said, it would be bad for customers, too.
“When they put people like us out of business, they can dictate the price any way they want. It’s like a monopoly. They’ll have a monopoly,” said Ganji.
In a statement, Lance Lively, executive director of Texas Package Stores Association said, “We will appeal the trial court’s decision and continue to fight for family owned liquor store owners against the world’s largest corporate entities…”
Walmart, meanwhile, said it was grateful for the judge’s decision.
“We applaud Judge Pitman’s order striking down Texas laws that have prevented us from fully serving our customers,” said spokesperson, Anne Hatfield.
Don’t expect any immediate changes. The ruling won’t take effect before an appeals court can weigh in. Walmart’s plan is to ultimately open liquor stores next to existing locations. The liquor would not be in the main store.