Texas Liquor Law Faces Court Challenge

A federal appeals court will soon drink in oral arguments on Texas liquor law.  For decades, Texas law has prevented large, publicly traded companies from getting a permit to sell hard liquor.  A group called the Pacific Legal Foundation has challenged that law as unconstitutional, and so far the courts have agreed. "The lower court actually concluded that the Texas law was unconstitutional, in that it violated the commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the Constitution," says Daniel Ortner, attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation.  The state has appealed that lower court ruling.

This is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal battle in which Pacific is representing Walmart in the retailer's push to sell liquor in Texas.  But Ortner tells KTRH the case would also open the door to liquor sales at places like HEB and Kroger, which he argues would increase competition and bring down prices.

The state has argued the law is meant to protect smaller, Texas-owned businesses from large outside corporations.  But Ortner disputes that claim.  "It's not really protecting small mom-and-pop businesses, it's just excluding the businesses that are going to make life easier for consumers, make it more convenient, and hopefully lower prices," he says.

No date has been set for oral arguments before the appeals court, but Ortner expects it will likely be sometime early next year.  He is confident the case for lifting the Texas law is on solid ground.  "The district court said the law was motivated by an irrational desire to exclude outsiders, and that was unconstitutional," he says.  "But beyond that, (the law) is not even reasonable anyway, because it doesn't actually achieve the goal Texas says it is achieving...it's just a barrier to competition, and the Constitution does not allow those types of restraints on free and fair competition."

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