Walmart won’t get another chance to plead its case before the Arizona State Liquor Board for a beer and wine license at its new El Con store.
The liquor board unanimously denied an appeal Thursday from the retail giant for a rehearing.
Walmart asked the board to reconsider its July ruling after the company struck a deal with neighbors over store hours and other restrictions.
The ruling now jeopardizes that deal, which was contingent upon Walmart receiving a license and would be in effect for 30 years.
Neither Walmart nor representatives of the neighborhood groups who negotiated the agreement returned calls for comment on how the ruling will affect operations at the store, which opened its doors this week at 3425 E. Broadway.
A week ago, residents from the surrounding neighborhoods and the company finalized a deal where Walmart agreed to close its doors at 11 p.m. every night at El Con in exchange for the neighbors dropping their objections to a liquor license.
In addition to the store hours, Walmart also agreed to not sell guns or ammunition at the store while it holds a liquor license and promised not to apply for a hard-liquor license for at least two years.
As a result of that agreement, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to offer no objections when Walmart presented its case before the board Thursday in Phoenix.
Walmart hoped the changes would be enough for the board to grant a rehearing, but the board thought otherwise.
Lee Hill, director of communications for the Arizona Department of Liquor and Licenses, said the board members determined none of the new evidence Walmart presented would have altered their original votes.
She said one of the requirements to receive a rehearing is to present new evidence that could not have been reasonably available during the original hearing. And that’s the requirement the board primarily based its decision on, Hill said.
In July, dozens of residents packed the liquor board hearing in Tucson to oppose the license for the El Con store. A parade of residents testified they were worried about late-night drinking by people up to no good on neighborhood streets. The liquor board unanimously voted to deny the license.
City attorney Mike Rankin said getting a board to reverse itself is always a difficult task.
“A rehearing is a tough hill to climb,” Rankin said.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who helped broker the deal between Walmart and neighbors, said this ruling shows why such hearings should be held locally.
“This despotic group of bureaucrats in Phoenix think they know what’s best for us,” Kozachik said.
“If the parties agree, who’s the board to feel they know better than the people who spent their money on attorneys, worked their butts off to find common ground and came to an agreement?” he said. “By making this ruling, they denied the will of the people of Tucson.”
Walmart still has options. It can immediately appeal the board’s ruling in court or wait one year and reapply.