Any business not deemed as “essential” has been mandated by Gov. Andy Beshear to close its doors to limit the potential of spreading the coronavirus.
Some area businesses however not only remain open, but are thriving.
Namely, liquor stores.
J’s Liquors and Cheese Shop, at 2216 New Hartford Road, despite having to close down its bar at Beshear’s behest, has seen a “tremendous” growth in sales, said store manager Audrey Abshier.
“It has been incredibly busy, especially for this time of year,” she said. “People are definitely buying everything from cases of wine, beer and liquor in bulk. When the news first came out about the virus, our pure grain alcohol was gone in the first week. We have reordered, but it is going fast.”
J’s, like many liquor stores around the community, suddenly found themselves on the front lines of the virus, being one of the few places of business still able to operate normally, she said.
Val-U Liquors has experienced about a 75% increase in sales in recent weeks, said Nikki Smith Henning, manager of the 3023 Highland Pointe Drive store.
“With anything that is a new unknown to the public, people are going to somewhat panic and be as prepared as the can possibly be,” she said. “We have been very busy, just like the grocery stores. People are buying in bulk because they don’t know what lies before them. They don’t know when the governor is going to shut everything down.”
Like J’s, Val-U has seen sales bursts of wine, Everclear and bourbon, Henning said.
“We have seen anything and everything that people would normally buy go out the door in bulk,” she said. “Everclear definitely because it can be used as a disinfectant. A lot of beer because it will get people further along than liquor, and surprisingly lots of cases of wine, maybe because homeschooling is starting to get tough.”
Given that it is business as usual, the liquor retailers are taking added steps to ensure not only the safety of their employees but the public as well.
The stores are continually sanitizing surfaces and door handles, wearing gloves and sanitizing their cash registers after each use, employees said, with one, Jimmie’s Drive-In Liquor Store, suspending in-store purchases and going to drive-through only, said Amrik Jammu, a store employee.
“We started drive-through only on Monday,” he said. “... We are bleaching the handles wherever people touch and are using disinfectant wipes for the register. We are constantly wiping things down. Our business has been steady.”
Along with grocery stores, area liquor stores are the few remaining bastions of commerce left running at a normal pace and are taking things one day at a time, said Abshier.
“We became a necessity for some odd reason,” she said. “We are more on the front lines than any of us expected. I think we are so busy because it gives some of our regulars a bit of comfort. They know us and we know them. We have also seen a lot of new faces coming through. I think it is a mix of comfort and people just not wanting to feel like they will go without.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org