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Liquor sales continue in COVID-19 pandemic

Robert Houk • Mar 29, 2020 at 1:14 AM

Area package stores are reporting brisk business as residents stock up on their favorite libations during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)  pandemic.

With liquor sales designated as an essential service by state officials, local retailers say they are doing their best to meet demand while keeping their employees and customers safe. 

“We are seeing people stock up,” Matt Greene, manager of Universal Wine and Spirits, 230 Marketplace Blvd., told the Press last week. “It’s been a very busy time for us.”

Guidelines from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission allow retail package stores to offer curbside and drive-through services. As always, retailers mush check ID of any customer who does not appear to be at least age 50.

Package stores may also deliver to its customers. They must use a licensed delivery service, or post a $1,000 bond with the state ABC to transport alcoholic beverages.

Phil Scharfstein, owner of One-Stop Wines and Spirits, 1735 W. State of Franklin Road, said his package stores do have the ability to deliver and are now offering curbside service. He said his employees have been “diligently wiping things down and sanitizing” as best they can.

Customers have limited access inside the store, and they are asked to abide by the 6-foot rule.

“We ask that customers look with their eyes and not with their hands,” Scharfstein said.

He said his “supply chains are up and running,” although he hears some wholesalers are beginning to run low of product in the Memphis area. Scharfstein said recent sales at his stores have been much like what he normally sees during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“I have noticed some unusual spirits are leaving the shelves,” he said.

Scharfstein said another item that seems to be flying off the shelves is pure grain alcohol.

“Some people believe it has a high enough alcohol content to use as a hand sanitizer,” he said.

Yvette Bridges, manager of Doe River Wine and Spirits, 630 Broad St., Elizabethton, said 190-proof grain alcohol has also been a best seller at her store. 

“Last week was crazy,” she said, noting that sales have slowed a bit in recent days.

Bridges said that while the actual number of customers she sees at her store hasn’t increased dramatically, the volumes they are purchasing have.

She also said many of her customers are buying “bigger bottles” of the most popular liquors at the store’s newly designated walk-up window.

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