Memphis couple has liquor case heard in Supreme Court

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis couple who owns Kimbrough Wine and Spirits on Union Avenue is in Washington, D.C. to have their case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mary and Doug Ketchum have put up a long legal fight to get a license to operate their liquor store, and they now are fighting for the rights of others.

The Supreme Court will now decide whether Tennessee can enforce residency requirements on potential liquor store owners like the Ketchums.

They first moved to Memphis in 2016 to seek a better life for their adult daughter, Stacie, who has cerebral palsy and is at risk for pneumonia.

They found Kimbrough Wine and Spirits, decided to buy it and in a way, start a new life.

"As soon as we got here I stepped off the plane and I was like, 'Oh, it smells so good here,'" Mary Ketchum said. "We decided that was a good thing for us to do."

But once they made the move, those efforts turned upside-down. The state denied their application for a liquor license, citing a law that requires they live in Tennessee for two years.

That began the legal fight that culminated Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It was amazing, just the whole atmosphere, everything in the courtroom,” Doug Ketchum said.

Beyond the wow factor, there are very real ramifications for businesses in Tennessee.

“Tennessee wanted to have the right to hold the people that have licenses more accountable than for other businesses because they feel liquor is a more serious substance," Doug Ketchum said.

But they said the state did not show up to defend the law. Instead, the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association is on the other side.

The Ketchums said the hearing went quickly. Each case only gets 30 minutes in front of the justices.

“We feel our hearing went very well," Doug Ketchum said.

They now will wait until June to get the Court’s decision.

The Ketchums have now lived in Memphis for two and a half years, so they would be eligible to operate the store no matter the ruling.

But there is a catch: people with liquor licenses in Tennessee are supposed to renew that license every year. But in order to do that, they must have lived in the state for ten years. The Ketchums said the justices commented that requirement seemed extreme. It's another element they could strike down.

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