Owners of Memphis liquor store set to go before Supreme Court

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis family is heading to Washington, D.C. in two weeks to have its case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mary and Doug Ketchum are challenging a Tennessee law that states people cannot get a license to open a liquor store unless they have lived in the state for more than two years.

They found out about the law after moving from Utah to Memphis to buy and operate Kimbrough Liquors on Union Avenue.

They decided to move when were living in Utah in 2016 and their daughter Stacie caught pneumonia. Stacie has cerebral palsy, and the pneumonia became life-threatening due to Salt Lake City's poor air quality.

“They told us then she wouldn’t make it until the end of the year," Doug Ketchum said. “They said you need to do something drastic. Get a different environment for her where you can keep her with clean air, clean water.”

The parents decided to uproot their lives; they committed to moving and finding a small business to run so they could spend more time at home with Stacie.

Doug went looking online and found Kimbrough Liquors.

“I’m like, 'I don’t know,'" he said of the discovery. "Then I mentioned it to Mary. Mary’s really into wine. She loves wine. So I thought, 'This might be fun.'”

They were initially excited about their new home.

“We got off the plane—trees everywhere," Doug said. "She immediately fell in love with it.”

"And the people are so nice," Mary Ketchum said.

But the excitement ended when they applied for their liquor license with the state in July.

The state stalled and then delivered the bad news.

“September is when they informed us, 'You’re not gonna get a license,'" Doug said.

Doug said Tennessee denied them based on a law stating someone must live in state for two years before they can get a liquor license.

The state had not been enforcing this law previously, but the Ketchums said the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association forced their hand.

The Ketchums fought it and won their appeal a year later, but it was a tough delay.

“A whole year with no job, no money, no income, a lot of stress," Doug said. "No resources because we just left all our family. We had no idea how we’d find facilities to help Stacie. It was a nightmare."

They are running Kimbrough now, but their case is still in the courts. The Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association appealed the decision, and now the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide about the state law once and for all.

They said Stacie is doing much better with her health, but because of legal fees and work, they also see her much less. They just hope they get a favorable ruling and can put this behind them.

The Supreme Court is set to hear their case January 16.

WREG contacted the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association Thursday but did not get a response.