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Alcohol sales spike during coronavirus pandemic


CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – One way Americans are coping with the coronavirus? Booze.

United States sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55% in the week ending March 21, according to market research firm Nielsen. Spirits like tequila, gin and pre-mixed cocktails led the way, with sales jumping 75% compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were up 66% while beer sales rose 42%, and online sales far outpaced in-store sales.

Nielsen said online alcohol sales were up 243%. Danelle Kosmal, a Nielsen vice president, suspects growth rates peaked that week as people loaded up their pantries before state stay-at-home orders went into effect.

At Heritage Liquors in Cranston, store owner Deborah Clift said sales are up 50% since the coronavirus outbreak began.

“They want to come out, but they don’t want to come out as often,” store manager Fred Lyons said. “So, they are bulking up a little more and buying more than they normally would.”

Lyons and Clift said they are doing everything they can to keep their customers safe. On Tuesday night, they sanitized every liquor bottle in the shop. They are cleaning shopping carts and baskets daily, and they are also offering curbside pickup for any customer afraid to go inside the store.

In addition, they are working to ensure customers maintain social distancing with floor markers that are 6 feet apart and barriers at the registers.

“We’re trying to minimize the amount of time people are near each other,” Clift explained. 

But Clift said she isn’t only concerned about the health of her customers. She is also worried about her employees, which is why she cut back her hours.

Liquor stores are considered essential businesses, so Heritage Liquors can remain open, but Clift said she would like to see the state put restrictions on their hours of operation.

“I would ask Governor [Gina] Raimondo if she would blanket it across the board and have the liquor stores closing perhaps by six o’clock at night” Clift said. “I would ask all of my fellow liquor store operators and wholesalers to say ‘Let’s take care of all of our employees and look out for their safety.'”

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