Wine sales in Texas after the Walmart lawsuit

Walmart lawsuit

Oh no! These shelves will be empty! Poor, poor pitiful us.

We’ll still be able to buy quality wine in Texas after the Walmart lawsuit, no matter what the panic mongers are telling us

Yes, it’s doom and gloom here in Texas after last month’s ruling that ended the unconstitutional monopoly that the state’s liquor store owners have enjoyed for more than 40 years. How will we ever be able to buy something besides Barefoot ever again?

“So while these new rulings, if enacted in Texas, might free up the market and lower prices they could ultimately harm the overall quality of the Texas wine market by lessening the overall total wine selection.”

Which, of course, we will. The naysayers, prominently quoted in the piece quoted above, make it sound like allowing Walmart to open liquor stores is the beginning of the end: “Some of the most-legislated markets – such as New York and Texas – also have the most vibrant wine markets because these laws have forced owners to specialise and have steered fine-wine buyers to wine-focused independents and chains.”

Excuse me while I reach for my hyperbole eraser.

Nothing will change in Texas if and when Walmart, Kroger, and any other national chain opens standalone liquor stores. Yes, I’ll be able to buy a fifth of bourbon when I go to the grocery store, but that’s about it. I’m not even sure prices will go down; has anyone noticed the foolishness behind supermarket wine pricing?

Some independent retailers, shorn of the monopoly that has protected them since the state’s retail lobby “convinced” the Legislature to pass unconstitutional legislation in the early 1970s, might go out of business. But it’s difficult to feel sorry for any business that stays afloat because a law was designed to stop it from failing.

Know three things about Texas wine sales after the Walmart lawsuit:

• Supermarkets sell spirits in Florida and California; I haven’t heard anyone complain they can’t buy a quality bottle of wine in either state. Right, Kermit Lynch?

• Some small Texas retailers don’t need the monopoly – they have thrived selling quality wine and offering quality service, knowing those are more effective weapons than an unconstitutional law. Pogo’s in Dallas, the not-related Wine Merchants in Austin and Houston, and Put a Cork in It in Fort Worth don’t need the Legislature to protect them.

• The independent pet store was supposed to go out of business in the early 2000s, thanks to national chain retailers like Walmart and PetsMart and more pet products in grocery stores. Sound familiar? But there may be more independent pet stores in the U.S. today than there were then.

So no, I’m not worried about Walmart or Kroger or Target or whatever opening a liquor store and destroying my chance to buy quality wine. And anyone who reads the blog knows that if there was a reason to worry, I’d be the first one to write about it.

The other thing to know? If and when three-tier reform hits your state, you’ll read and hear the same dire warnings. And there won’t be any reason to believe them, either.

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3 thoughts on “Wine sales in Texas after the Walmart lawsuit

  • By Mark - Reply

    This same argument was used in Colorado when they finally after many many years passed the law to allow full strength beer and wine to be sold in grocery chains. It did nothing to hurt the quality. All it did was drive the big chain wines to grocery and the speciality wines were picked up in liquor stores. If anything the variety increased. Some people just can’t handle change.

  • By Doug Caskey - Reply

    In response to Mark, the changes to Colorado’s three-tier system brought about by SB16-197 have barely taken effect as yet. That law required a grocery store with a pharmacy (Whole Foods and Natural Grocers are simply out of luck) to buy out two existing retail liquor stores within the same jurisdiction as the potential “liquor-licensed drug store” location and all retail liquor stores within 1500 feet of the grocery store. As a result of this major investment, I believe that we have seen only four new grocery stores apply for licenses to sell full-strength beer wine and spirits since January 1, 2017, when the law took effect. So Colorado is not the best example of why the world will not end with wine sales in Walmart.

    The Beer Apocalypse is coming Jan. 1, 2019 when all grocery and convenience stores that have been able to sell 3.2% beer exclusively all these years are suddenly allowed to sell full-strength beer. We will have to see if that shift in the primary cash flow source for retail liquor stores to grocery and convenience stores will have an impact on selection and profitability for independent liquor stores and the selection of wine supported by beer sales.

  • By Amber - Reply

    Being an American, but one who now lives in Spain, I forget how archaic some of the rules are about wine and liquor sales in some of the states. Having lived in Virginia for years, and being subject to the ABC laws, and lack of Sunday sales in DC…arrgghh. I am happy to be in the wine drinking and selling land of Spain!

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