Liquor stores across the United States are experiencing an unprecedented surge in sales while the country braces for the peak of positive cases that is predicted to arrive in the coming weeks.
Stores right here in the Hudson Valley are among those feeling the positive boost in revenue since the coronavirus outbreak a few weeks ago in the US. “I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in sales for the last two to three weeks now,” said Ken Maguire, owner of Fox and Hound Wine and Spirits in New Paltz. “Customers have been buying in larger amounts than before so they don’t have to leave their house as often.”
On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the signing of the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order intended to enforce social distancing guidelines to aid in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The 10-point policy included a directive for all non-essential New York businesses to cease in-person operations beginning Sunday, March 22.
Of the businesses defined as “essential” by New York State, all food and beverage distributors and manufacturers are allowed to stay open under the executive order, including liquor retailers in that list. “Initially, when there was word of a New York State shutdown, there was a pretty substantial increase [in sales]. It lasted a couple of weeks until people were confident liquor stores would not be included [in the business shutdowns],” said Margaret Clarke, co-owner of Fitz’s Liquor Store in Kingston.
Even though liquor stores remain open for business, day-to-day operations have needed to shift dramatically to accommodate the vastly different world around us amid this pandemic. Some stores have moved to only allowing one customer in at a time to make their selections, like Arlington Wine and Liquor in Poughkeepsie; others have shifted to exclusively offer curbside pick-up and ordering like Viscount Wine and Liquors in Wappingers Falls and Hudson Wine Merchants in Hudson. Most stores have modified their hours of operation to accommodate for a smaller staff as well.
While at the beginning of the outbreak some stores began to offer delivery as an alternative method of receiving orders, many have had to stop offering the service as the coronavirus’s spread worsens in New York. “Unfortunately, we are no longer personally delivering in the local area around our store, as we do not have the staff to both do this and run the store safely,” said a post on the Arlington Wine and Liquor website.
A public emergency as widespread as COVID-19, although proving great for alcohol sales, is having worse impacts on the restaurant industry. “As much as all of us [liquor store owners] are enjoying the increased business, most of us come from food backgrounds and a lot of us are really upset and troubled that these restaurants and food service workers are struggling right now. I want to encourage the community to support their local businesses during this troubling time,” said Ken Maguire of Fox and Hound Wine and Spirits in New Paltz.
With Cuomo’s executive order on March 16, all restaurants and bars in New York were ordered to limit service to take-out and delivery only, greatly impacting their flows of business and revenues amidst the pandemic. Chronogram is compiling a comprehensive list of Hudson Valley restaurants’ new COVID-19 hours and protocols that remain open here.