Wal-Mart stands to benefit from legislation that would change how retail liquor licenses are granted, but some potential competitors would not.
While two state lawmakers recently filed legislation that would allow retail giant Wal-Mart and other public corporations to sell hard liquor in Texas, the proposed bills maintain provisions that would prevent grocery chains H-E-B and Whole Foods from joining the competition.
The state’s alcoholic beverage code currently prohibits publicly traded companies, such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, from selling spirits here. But House Bill 1225 and Senate Bill 609 would eliminate that prohibition and remove a cap on the number of liquor stores one company can operate.
However, those bills would continue to ban operators with mixed-beverage permits or permits for on-site wine and beer consumption from enjoying the same access to the state’s lucrative liquor market.
H-E-B and Whole Foods, both based in Texas, currently hold both those permits and so would remain in the excluded category.
As of Tuesday, it was unclear whether the bills could be amended to include H-E-B and Whole Foods without opening the door to bottled liquor sales at other establishments – for example bars and restaurants – that operate with similar permits.
State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, introduced HB 1225 last month, but said he was unaware the bill’s language wouldn’t benefit H-E-B or Whole Foods. And Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who filed companion legislation in the Senate, confirmed his office has started researching the issue.
“This concern has been brought to our attention by several retailers, and we are looking into ways to address this issue,” Hancock wrote in an email.
See here and here for the background. I’m okay with changing the law as it now stands, but not like this. Either open it up to all, or don’t bother. A supermarket shouldn’t have to choose between having an in-store cafe and being able to sell booze. This should not be that hard.