Mondays and Tuesdays are generally moderate sales days in a liquor store.
However, March 16 and 17 felt more like a holiday weekend stock-up, with growing COVID-19 concerns forcing Minnesota restaurants and bars to close at 5 p.m. March 17, following an order Gov. Tim Walz.
“Sales from March 13-17 were at an all-time high, but today is a bit more normal, although it will be a bit better than average,” Ronald Gust, manager of the city of Mound's Harbor Wine & Spirits, said on March 18.
“For the week of March 8-14, Eden Prairie liquor store traffic was up 8.5 percent and sales were up 28.1 percent versus last year,” said Katie Bengtson, senior communications coordinator for Eden Prairie.
Omar Torres, communications manager for Top 10 Liquors, which has one of its nine shops in Chanhassen, echoed the same sentiment. Stores across the metro experienced high volume following the announcements.
“We remain being able to restock our top 50 items at all nine locations. We're really paying attention to everything that is going on at the state level, reacting appropriately with the safety of our customers and our employees the No. 1 priority,” he said.
“People are changing, but they're still out shopping. You drive by the grocery stores and the parking lots are packed,” said Charlie Pierson of Chasers Beverage Center of Chaska. “People are buying a bit more, but we're not as crazy nuts as with toilet paper.”
While sales have been on the increase, so has the amount of precaution.
Harbor Wine & Spirits is allowing only 10 customers in the store at any time. Total Wine in Chanhassen has a limit of 25 people. Though Gust said it has not been an issue due to people are basically in and out.
Some stores, such as Top Ten Chanhassen and city-owned Wayzata Wine & Spirits, have reduced hours. Top 10 is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to allow for additional time to restock and sanitize. “We're allocating a lot of hours for cleaning, before and after they come in. We have canceled all of our tasting events as well to prevent any spread. We just want to provide the safest environment possible,” Torres said.
General Manager Kevin Castellano of Wayzata Wine & Spirits, which now is opening at 11 a.m., said his store is taking every precaution they can to remain open for customers.
“We are sanitizing our credit card terminals after every transaction, and frequently sanitizing all cart handles, counter tops, and cooler door handles. Signage and instructions to ‘wait here’ in store, so that if there is a customer in line, everyone can feel comfortable in keeping our ‘social distancing’ intact. We are offering and encouraging curbside pick-up orders with instructions for people to call in, we place the order, and bring it to their vehicle,” he said.
Pierson said Chasers is cleaner now than it's ever been.
“We're wiping everything down. There's always a counter between us and the customer, but we're trying to be extra careful. We've dusted all the shelves, cleaned all of the bottles. Every time I look Roxy (Schindler, owner) is wiping down the counter. We have customers calling in, telling us what they want, and we'll bring it out to you in your car,” Pierson said.
Castellano believes the uptick in sales isn't all about stocking up, but replacing entertainment options bars and restaurants provided.
“It’s been very busy, with an increase in sales not just this week, but in the previous week as well. Without anyone being able to go out for happy hour, or to the bar at night, they are getting their items at the store,” he said.
Torres said knowing many servers, bartenders and restaurant and bar staff are without jobs right now, Top 10 Liquors is currently hiring at many stores.
“We're continuously hiring part-time employees. One, we need more people to help with increased traffic, but two, if we have employees not feeling well, we will need additional staff if we want to continue services as long as possible,” Torres said.
Top 10 Liquors has a job application on their website under “Join our team.”
With uncertainty of how long bars and restaurants will be closed, and how long the self-quarantine may be needed, Harbor Wine & Spirits' Gust wonders what the new normal may be at his store.
"It will be interesting to see what the weekend brings, but we are thinking that we will not see the 'stocking up' like we did this past week,” he said.