The company is seeking to overturn a state law making it illegal for publicly-traded companies to sell spirits.

By Mike Pomranz
November 25, 2020
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Since states are allowed to set their own rules on alcohol, crossing borders can create significant differences. In Nevada, grabbing a bottle of liquor is no problem, but as soon as you cross into Utah, spirits can only be purchased in state-run stores. Meanwhile, some states operate in strange gray areas. And in Texas, Walmart is fighting not to be left out of the loop.

In the Lone Star State, publicly-traded retailers have been barred from selling liquor since 1995, a rule that boxes out most large chains. Unsurprisingly, Walmart isn’t in love with this regulation and has been in a legal battle with the state since 2015. Texas is the only state with this kind of law, according to the Texas Tribune, and as a result, Walmart has claimed that 98 percent of liquor stores in the state are (unfairly) owned by Texans.

When last we checked in on these wranglings in 2019, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, sending Walmart’s liquor selling dreams to the return aisle. But Walmart has kept fighting, only to face another defeat—this time, courtesy of the highest court in the country.

Walmart storefront
Credit: Getty Images

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Walmart’s petition to hear their case against Texas. According to Bloomberg, the decision now sends the massive retailer back to a federal trial court where they’ll have to prove the Texas government is intentionally discriminating against out-of-state retailers. Whether Walmart will have success there is anyone’s guess: A U.S. district court judge actually did rule in Walmart’s favor back in 2018 before the appeals court sent Walmart down its current path, so it’s been a bit of a rodeo.

Meanwhile, in their brief to the Supreme Court, attorneys for Texas argued that the law was working exactly as intended. “The law precludes large corporations from using their economies of scale to lower liquor prices and increase the density of liquor outlets in the State,” they wrote. “This approach has served Texas well—it has consistently ranked among the States with the lowest per capita liquor consumption.”