The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently profiled 10 industries thriving in the coronavirus pandemic. Not surprisingly, liquor stores is one of them.
Across the globe, newfound homebodies are finding ways to pass the time. And not surprisingly, that includes drinking.
“We’ve been slammed,” said David Bevans, co-owner of Legacy Wine & Spirits in west Little Rock. “It’s been like another holiday season for us. A big part of it has been deliveries and curbside service, but we still have lots of traffic in the store too. We’ve actually had to adjust our business model.”
Bevans said business has tripled since mid-March, roughly 50 percent of it through online or delivery orders. Other industries noted by the Chamber as enjoying a pandemic-fueled economic boon are cleaning services, drive-in movie theaters, grocery stores, mail-prep delivery services, game makers and sellers, canned and jarred goods companies, fitness-equipment companies, landscaping and yard-care firms and of course, delivery services.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recent relaxation of state regulations regarding the sale of alcohol allowed liquor stores to offer curbside pickup and even delivery. Arkansas consumers have responded with their wallets.
“We had to buy a delivery van to meet the demand,” Bevans said. While regretting the circumstances under which business is booming, he’s hopeful the positive momentum will lead to permanent changes in state law allowing liquor stores to continue offering delivery.
Consumers indeed are making a statement. The last week of March, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared city liquor stores “nonessential,” thus temporarily closing them. The announcement led to a run on booze with blocks-long lines of customers waiting to stock up on spirits before stores closed. With social distancing thus thrown out the window, Hancock lifted the nonessential tag.
J.D. Phelps of New York City’s Vintage Grapes Wine & Spirits told Bloomberg that his store has struggled to keep up with demand, and Mike Thompson of B&B Liquor of Macomb, Mich., told MLive.com that customers were buying in “mass hysteria.”
“It’s a real weird time,” said Jim Phillips, president of the Springdale Liquor Association, which has seven stores under its umbrella — Cheers Liquor & Wine Shoppe, County Line Liquors, Fiesta Liquors, Last Chance Liquors, Liquor Depot, Sunset Liquors and Y Liquors. “I just hope they don’t declare us as nonessential.”
Phillips said his customers don’t appear to be hoarding, but he has seen an uptick in sales of pure grain alcohol (PGA) and vodka which he attributes to homemade alternatives to hand sanitizer.
“It looks like we’ve sold year-to-date about as much Everclear as the whole previous year,” he said. As of April 1, Phillips’ stores had sold 14 bottles in 2020 compared with 16 in all of the previous year.
Meanwhile, with sales up across the board, Bevans said pandemic customers seem to prefer tequila and margarita fixings. Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, after all.
“You just gotta roll with the punches,” he said. “People drink in good times or bad.”