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Spec’s Sues Texas ABC For Alleged “Regulatory Overreach”

December 6, 2018

Texas liquor chain Spec’s Wines, Spirits, & Finer Foods is hitting back at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which had targeted the 177-store chain with sanctions and fines for alleged transgressions in recent years. Spec’s was cleared last year of the TABC’s charges—which included alleged illegal payments from a wholesaler and fellow retailer and illegally negotiated wine prices—and is now firing back at the agency with a federal lawsuit asserting “abusive regulatory overreach.” The Texas Tribune reported that the lawsuit was filed in late August but only recently unsealed.

Spec’s is reportedly seeking unspecified damages and reimbursement of more than $1 million in legal fees. In response, the TABC has asserted that it has “sovereign immunity” and is therefore impervious to such suits.

The TABC initiated an audit of Spec’s in 2013, and subsequently charged the retailer with a number of offenses, eventually threatening to rescind the chain’s permits and impose fines of more than $700 million. But in 2017, a pair of Texas administrative law judges tossed the TABC’s case and instead recommended that Spec’s receive a warning for the late payment of an invoice from a wine supplier back in 2011, and not be fined.

The missteps against Spec’s capped a tumultuous period for the TABC, which was also accused of lavish expenditures of taxpayer funds and other instances of alleged regulatory overreach in recent years. Following those allegations, Texas governor Greg Abbott overhauled the agency’s leadership last year. —Daniel Marsteller

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