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Liquor stores face new tests as states reopen after lockdowns

A person leaves a liquor store in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn during the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020 in New York City.

Rob Kim | Getty Images

As restaurants and stores begin to reopen after months of closure, liquor stores will be forced to make even more extreme adjustments. 

While much of the country stayed at home, liquor store owners and employees continued to run these businesses, but with fewer resources. Staffers have had to respond to high-stress incidents more frequently, often the result of people who were frustrated with staying indoors most of the time. 

The coronavirus pandemic pressured wine and liquor sellers, which were deemed essential businesses by certain state guidelines, to limit in-person capacity to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. But these restrictions were not received well in many locations. Customers in some cases became enraged by being asked to wear a mask inside, one store manager told CNBC. 

Restaurant closures have also forced several liquor stores to lose a large income source once food establishments stopped ordering bulk alcohol shipments. 

“Walk-in and retail business has increased by 22% from March 16th to today,” said Alex Le, co-owner of Nasa Liquor in Houston, Texas. “However, overall business is at average pace, with the loss of bar and restaurant businesses.”

Multiple shop owners and employees told CNBC about the challenges of running a liquor store during a pandemic, including fears about tension with customers and concerns about demand returning to pre-virus levels. Here is what they had to say.

Operating under quarantine

In New York, Park Avenue Liquor Shop, which normally caters to residents in the area, saw many of its usual customers flee the city once the coronavirus struck, said the business’s vice president, Jonathan Goldstein. 

The store has still been fulfilling resident orders and delivering, but in fewer quantities than ever. To cope with fewer orders, Goldstein had to lay off a few employees.

“I reduced my numbers and have no idea if business will warrant an increase in the upcoming months,” he said. “The people I still have here are braving the unknown but are being extremely careful.”

In the store, employees wear masks and gloves and sanitize after each transaction. 

Other New York liquor establishments, like bars, have offered takeout drinks, resulting in people lining up to order and standing around or near the vicinity to consume it. In normal circumstances, alcohol cannot be consumed in public spaces, including on streets and in parks. 

Because of shelter-in-place guidelines and because many stores and restaurants closed to stop the spread of the virus, liquor stores have become a reliable way to break the day’s flow. 

“Being open and with people working from home, we are seeing people we’re not used to seeing during the day, whether it be professionals who are usually in the office or teachers who are usually in the classroom,” said Le of Houston-based…

Read More: Liquor stores face new tests as states reopen after lockdowns

2020-06-11 02:28:04

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