Green’s Discount Beverages in Columbia is staying open during the coronavirus pandemic since liquor stores are considered essential businesses. The store’s sales have increased during the last few weeks.
Tape marks the floor every six feet in the checkout line at Green’s Discount Beverages in Columbia to enforce social distancing while customers wait in line. Manager Gary Kangas said the store has implemented safeguards to try to control the spread of coronavirus.
“We’ve reduced our hours on the beer side of the store, and we have hand sanitizer and wipes for carts at the entrance,” Kangas said. “We’ve put the plexiglass screens up between our cashiers and customers. We don’t dissuade our employees from wearing masks to work.”
Liquor store sales are currently increasing nationwide, despite other businesses slowing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In South Carolina, liquor stores are considered essential businesses, so they have remained open during the closings of stores across the state. In the United States, alcohol sales were up 55% in March compared to sales during the same period last year, according to the market research firm Nielsen. Of that, spirits had the highest sales gain at 75% over the same time last year.
Bonnie Swingle, media manager for the South Carolina Department of Revenue, said that returns for liquor tax reporting for the month of March are usually due April 20. Due to the coronavirus panic, SCDOR has extended the due date to June 1. So, liquor sales numbers specific to the state will not be available until after June 1.
But even without the revenue statistics, liquor store managers are reporting anecdotally that sales are up.
“Everyone panic-bought when the first announcements were made, and then it settled back to around normal for a while,” Kangas said. “Every time the government makes another announcement, though, our sales go back up.”
Padi Reddy, owner of Midland Liquor Store in West Columbia, has also changed how he operates his store.
“Right now, we’re only allowing three or four people into the store at a time,” Reddy said.
Owners are taking these measures so that customers can still safely shop, and Kangas said consumers have a variety of reasons for coming in.
“Some people have to have it, and others may use it as a coping mechanism,” Kangas said. “Some people have family staying at their houses, so they’re buying for their family member.”
Kangas also said that he is still getting business from college students.
“There are still students around that live in off-campus housing and aren’t going home, so they’re still coming in to make purchases,” Kangas said.
Along with grocery stores, retail pharmacies and gas stations, liquor stores will remain open despite Gov. Henry McMaster issuing a statewide “home or work” order, starting 5 p.m. Tuesday.
For updates on business closures and announcements pertaining to coronavirus in South Carolina, visit https://governor.sc.gov/news.