Lobbyists Push Legislature to Open up Rules on Alcohol Sales

Publicly traded companies can’t own liquor stores in Texas. Should they be allowed to?

By Brenda SalinasMarch 30, 2015 9:47 pm|

Texas has a few laws surrounding alcohol: liquor stores are closed on Sundays,  you can’t put the American flag on beer bottles, and publicly traded companies can’t own liquor stores.

Travis Thomas says it’s only a matter of time before that last law is changed. He’s the spokesman for Texans For Consumer Freedom, a lobby that wants the law removed.

“To exclude public companies from competing is arbitrary, is anticompetitive and when you consider the fact that retail stores of all kinds all compete with publicly traded companies and they do not enjoy state-mandated protections,” Thomas says. “So then what is it that makes the retail liquor market different?”

Thomas says a public company doesn’t mean what it sounds like when it comes to the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission.

“According to TABC, a public company is one that has more than 35 shareholders,” Thomas says. “Now there are many, many companies that are not publicly traded that have more than 35 shareholders.”

Brookshires Grocery is the latest one of those publicly traded companies to join the Texans for Consumer Freedom, whose members include Costco, Walmart and the Texas Business Association. The lobby says it wants to amend existing state laws and has backed bills filed in the Texas House and Senate that would eliminate the prohibition on publicly traded companies.

Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, filed one of those bills. He says that existing laws are against the principles of Texan’s belief in free market capitalism.

“We filed the bill, so we’re waiting on filing a request on the committee hearing,” Isaac says. “Once the bill goes through the committee hearing, we’re going to have testimony on both sides, and then you request a vote on the bill and then it goes to another committee called the calendars committee.”

Isaac says that he’s hopeful his bill will pass.

“Once they’re voted on the floor of the House, if they’re voted on favorably, it would go over to the senate.”

The bill has to pass those legislative hoops before it would change a law that’s been on the books since 1995—and the governor would still have to approve.