Supreme Court strikes down Tennessee liquor sales law |

Supreme Court strikes down Tennessee liquor sales law

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a Tennessee law that makes it hard for outsiders to break into the state’s liquor sales market.

The court voted 7-2 in ruling that a state requirement that someone live in Tennessee for two years to be eligible for a license to sell liquor violates the Constitution.

The outcome was a victory for a family that moved to Tennessee because of their daughter’s disability and a national chain with nearly 200 liquor stores in 23 states.

The case pitted the authority given to states to regulate alcohol sales in the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition in the United States against the constitutional principle that only Congress, not the states, can regulate interstate commerce.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court that states have considerable power to regulate the sale of alcohol, but they can’t discriminate against out-of-state interests. The predominant effect of the residency requirement is to protect Tennessee liquor sellers “from out-of-state competition,” he wrote.

In dissent with Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the 21st amendment left the regulation of alcohol to the states.

The case began when the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association opposed the issuance of licenses to Doug and Mary Ketchum, who moved to Tennessee from Utah, and the national chain Total Wine Spirits Beer & More for a store in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Ketchums operate Kimbrough Wines & Spirits in Memphis. Their 34-year-old daughter, Stacie, has cerebral palsy and suffered serious respiratory problems in Utah.

There were two provisions in play initially, two years of residency before obtaining a license and 10 years in Tennessee before a liquor license can be renewed.

Both residency provisions were struck down by lower courts, and the retailers’ association dropped its defense of the longer requirement.

The retailers argued that having people in the state for two years made it easier for authorities to do background checks and seize a liquor seller’s financial assets if necessary.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia backed the retailers’ association, but Tennessee itself had essentially stopped defending the residency requirements.

Arguments in the case took place in January on the 100th anniversary of ratification of Prohibition, the constitutional ban on the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition ended in 1933.

The case is Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas, 18-96.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.