Mid-South Family Headed To U.S. Supreme Court Over Tennessee Liquor License Law

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TN Liquor Licensing Laws

A local family is challenging Tennessee’s liquor license law and taking their fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

Doug and Mary Ketchum moved to Memphis from Utah more than two years ago. Now, they are being told they may not be able to run their liquor store because they haven’t lived in Memphis long enough.

It’s not a new law, but it hasn’t been enforced much over the years.

Here’s what led up to this.

The Ketchums daughter, Stacie, is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Her doctors said she needed to live in a place with better air quality or she wouldn’t live long. So the Ketchums moved to Memphis from Utah a couple of years ago and Stacie has been doing much better.

They also chose to buy and run a Midtown liquor store, Kimbrough Fine Wine & Spirits, so they’d have flexible hours to care for Stacie.

Only problem is, Tennessee law says they can’t keep their liquor license unless they’ve lived in the state for at least 10 years.

“We want to be good neighbors. We want to be good friends,” says Doug Ketchum.

“As soon as they told us this was going to the Supreme Court, I couldn’t sleep for months because I was worried we were gonna lose everything,” says Mary Ketchum.

Doug and Mary Ketchum interviewed with us via Facebook messenger chat. They’re in Washington, DC, preparing for the fight of their lives.

“We’d lose our house. We’d lose our retirement money. Everything is leaned to the business so we would literally lose everything,” says Mary Ketchum.

“People don’t want outside competition coming in and I think there’s been a little misconception about who we are,” says Doug Ketchum.

The Ketchums are challenging a Tennessee law that protects in-state businesses from outside competitors. Regarding liquor stores, the law says a person must be a Tennessee resident for at least two years before they can get a liquor license. You must be a resident at least 10 years before you can renew a liquor license.

Long-time liquor store owners say the law is in place for a reason, which is to protect mom and pop shops from outsiders.

“I want the opportunity to be there for everybody, but at the same time, more people coming in, it’s more competition for everyone else and it’s just gonna hurt the small businesses like ourselves,” says Christopher Vallandingham from Carl’s Wines and Liquors. “Stay like it is. We’re sick of the changes.”

The Ketchums say they’re not trying to steal business from the locals. They just want a better life for their daughter.

“We knew we had to make some radical changes if we wanted to keep her around and we just can’t imagine our lives without her,” says Doug Ketchum.

“We decided even if this all falls apart, and you know everything doesn’t work out, and we have to start all over, we’re gonna do it from Memphis,” says Mary Ketchum.

The Ketchums go before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. They say it might be June before a decision is made.

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