As the coronavirus outbreak has caused an economic hardship across Maryland as many small businesses have been ordered to close their doors, one particular type of business has thrived: liquor stores.
“Business is booming,” said Renee Zacharias, manager of Ballenger Beer and Spirits.
Zacharias and managers at other liquor stores countywide said they have seen a recent uptick in sales, as people rush to those establishments during a global health pandemic — and are advised by public health officials to spend most of their time isolated in their homes.
Zacharias said business is triple what it usually is this time of year, and many customers have said they want to stockpile beer and liquor before her and other liquor stores might be shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Tom Wolf, governor of the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, ordered liquor stores to close statewide earlier this week due to the coronavirus.
“People are coming in and stocking up because they think it’s going to happen here,” Zacharias said.
That sentiment was shared by Cotton Rudy, co-owner of Rudy’s Welding Service and Cold Beer in Middletown.
Business has been up around 50 percent compared with what is usual seen around this time of year, Rudy said. Customers are constantly asking if they are going to close due to the coronavirus, she said.
And a certain item has been a hot commodity, she said.
“I think because of the coronavirus, we ran out of Everclear alcohol, because people have been using it as hand sanitizer,” Rudy said, who added she was hopefully getting another shipment late this week.
Dhaval Zaghasia, manager of New Market Liquors, said business spiked — sales went up 50 to 80 percent — when Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that bars and restaurants would be closed indefinitely earlier this week.
Pradeep Saini, owner of Brunswick Liquors, said business doubled around that time. He added that he is taking precautions amid the outbreak — employees are wearing gloves, and hand sanitizer is kept in high-traffic areas.
A.J. Spellmon, who works at Spirit of Liberty near Libertytown, also said it’s been a busy time for him and colleagues the past two weeks.
Business has doubled in roughly the last week, he said. Many customers are stockpiling, something he typically sees only during the holiday season.
“Even people that don’t drink normally, or just drink during the holidays are like, well ... if we’re stuck at home for a long period of time, then we might as well have it,” Spellmon said.
There’s one specific personal challenge when people flood the store, he added.
“There’s a constant line of customers, and it’s hard to go to the bathroom,” he said.
Liquor stores countywide now have the ability to offer curbside pickup and delivery of alcohol, as long as they adhere to local liquor laws, Hogan announced earlier this week.
Some, including Zacharias, are looking to expand that, depending on what the local liquor board will allow.
But for now, business is strong for her and others countywide. That includes Orion Wine and Spirits in Urbana.
Shalen Maffre, manager of that store, said he had a record high day in sales Monday — roughly eight to nine times what he typically brings in on that day of the week.
People are seeing the need to stock up before his and other stores might be shut down, he said.
“A lot of people are sort of uncertain and they’re looking to stock up just in case. ... Better to have booze now more than anything, I guess,” Maffre said with a laugh.