Alcohol purchases in March spiked dramatically with the spread of the coronavirus, which prompted the shutdown of Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores.
The Liquor Control Board on Friday reported selling almost a month’s worth of wine and spirits in only 17 days. The $29.9 million sold on March 16 — the day before the Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores were closed — was the most spent on booze in Pennsylvania in one day, according to complete sales records dating back 12 years.
March 2020 sales of wine and spirits totaled $198.1 million, off 2% compared with March 2019 sales. Sales after March 17 were made through state-operated warehouses serving restaurants and grocery stores, which operate Monday to Friday and are not subject to the closing.
Despite the shutdown, bottles of wine, beer, and spirits are available for purchase through certain restaurants, distilleries, breweries, grocers, and delivery services. The LCB’s online ordering system for consumers resumed April 1.
Whether consumers predicted the State Store shutdown or decided that their liquor cabinets seemed a bit bare, sales began surging on March 12, two days before Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the 88 stores in the Philadelphia suburbs would close after business March 17.
Sales on March 16, the day Wolf revised the order to include all 600 stores statewide, were nearly eight times the volume of the same Monday a year earlier.
The next-highest days at the State Stores were around Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The LCB said it could provide complete sales data going back 12 years and overall numbers since 2014.
Stores in New Jersey and Delaware are doing a brisk business. Nielsen Co. reported a 55% rise of alcoholic beverage sales nationally for the week ending March 21, the last week that sales were available, and said online alcohol sales were up 243% that week.