Wal-Mart's suit over ‘irrational’ liquor ban set for September 2016 trial

By David Yates | Sep 16, 2015

A September 2016 trial has been slated in Wal-Mart's suit against the state, which claims that an “irrational” law is keeping the mega-retailer from selling distilled spirits in the Lone Star State.

Court records show that on Sept. 8 U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman signed off on a scheduling order, stating that all parties shall complete discovery by March 25, 2016.

A bench trial is set to be held on Sept. 26, 2016 at 9 a.m.

The case is continuing forward because on July 24 the judge refused to grant a motion to dismiss brought by the state, saying that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has not explained why the liquor ban does not violate the state's constitution.

Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries, Sam’s East and Quality Licensing, filed their suit, which also names TABC Commissioners Jose Cuevas Jr., Steven Weinberg and Ida Clement Steen as defendants, on Feb. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.

Wal-Mart maintains it brought the action because its Texas customers want added convenience when shopping for adult beverages.

The current law, which Wal-Mart thinks contradicts the state’s belief in free enterprise, prohibits publicly owned businesses from offering spirits to its customers.

The TABC has argued that Wal-Mart is trying to subvert the Texas legislature by filing a suit alleging constitutional violations.

Wal-Mart, a publicly traded corporation, is the largest retailer of wine and beer in Texas. Each of its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores that sell wine and beer do so only after first obtaining a permit from the TABC.

In its complaint, Wal-Mart says Texas law irrationally excludes publicly traded hotel corporations from the prohibition against publicly traded corporations, and any publicly traded hotel with a hotel store may sell distilled spirits and hold package store permits irrespective of the public corporation ban.

The mega-retailer, which is the largest private employer in the U.S. and Texas, is licensed to sell liquor in 25 other states.

Wal-Mart is represented in part by attorneys Neal Manne, Alex Kaplan and Chanler Langham of the Houston law firm Susman Godfrey.

Attorney General Ken Paxton represents TABC.

Case No. 1:15-cv-00134-RP

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