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Wine Spectator: How Far Will The Supreme Court Go In Tennessee Wine Retailer Case?

February 8, 2019

Supreme Court rulings are difficult to predict, especially when the justices are considering arguments that don’t fall neatly into conservative or liberal ideologies. That’s the case with Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Zackary Blair, which asks whether a Tennessee durational residency requirement for wine and spirits retailers is constitutional. The justices heard oral arguments January 16 and are expected to reach a decision by summer.

The Tennessee law under challenge mandates a two-year residency to obtain an initial liquor retail license, and a 10-year residency for a renewal (even though the license expires after one year). Additionally, 100% of owners, directors, and officers must satisfy these criteria. Two lower courts ruled that Tennessee is in violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution because it’s discriminating against out-of-state businesses. Both courts cited Granholm v. Heald—the 2005 case that struck down bans on direct shipping by out-of-state wineries in states and allowed shipping by in-state wineries—as a precedent.

Wine Spectator asked leading constitutional scholars and court watchers what they expect the court to do, based on the case and oral arguments. Will Tennessee’s law survive? And will the highest court in the land rule broadly and strike down other restrictions on wine sales? Wine Spectator has the full story.—Emma Balter

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