State alcohol laws need more flexibility

Not too many years ago Texas was a place where alcohol was often hard to buy. The state had “dry” counties, limited hours of operations for places that did sell it and bars that had to pretend to be private clubs. Many of those restrictions have faded in recent years as the state has modernized, but a few more changes are in order.

This is not about encouraging people to drink or undermining the serious fight against drunk driving. Instead the focus should be on leveling the playing field for the businesses involved and giving consumers the options they want.

For example, breweries are still prohibited from selling beer for off-premises consumption even though similar sales are permitted at wineries, distilleries and brewpub restaurants.

Why the distinction? Well, because that’s the way it’s always been … and because the powerful beer distributors lobby has thwarted efforts to change these laws in past sessions of the Legislature.

Texas has more 100 licensed breweries, many of them selling craft beer, and more are being planned. This is a growing trend in beer consumption that shouldn’t be thwarted by outdated state laws. The “to-go” sales would help those startups considerably, possibly providing more revenue for some than on-site consumption.

Walmart is also suing the state because it can’t sell hard liquor at its stores in Texas, as it can in 25 other states.

Texas law currently prohibits publicly-traded companies with more than 35 shareholders – basically any large corporation – from selling hard liquor. A person or company also cannot hold more than five liquor store permits in Texas.


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