Bottles of Tito’s Vodka and Skinnygirl Margaritas were sold out at the liquor store in Drexel Hill, and over in Conshohocken there wasn’t a single jug of $17.99 Carlo Rossi cabernet sauvignon left on the shelves.
But the one thing all liquor stores in the Pennsylvania suburbs were running low on Monday — the day before the state shut them down indefinitely due to the coronavirus — was boxed wine.
“All of the boxed wines,” said Theresa Berger, general manager of the Chalfont Fine Wine and Good Spirits store, of what’s been the biggest seller.
Theories varied as to whether this was because of the shelf life of boxed wine (several weeks once opened) or because of the quantity it provides (four bottles per box), but either way, when suburbanites fear getting boxed in, it seems they turn to boxed wine.
On Saturday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced all 88 state liquor stores in Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester Counties would close Tuesday in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. A phased closure began Monday, leaving just a handful of State Stores open in each county to handle the volume.
Workers at those stores told customers they could still travel to Philadelphia’s liquor stores, where business would go on as usual, but by Monday afternoon, that, too, changed as Wolf announced all 600 liquor stores in the state would close Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“It’s just been mayhem,” said Berger. Her store opened at 11 a.m. Sunday with 200 to 300 people waiting in line, she said.
While wine and beer are available for purchase now at many grocery stores in Pennsylvania — which will remain open — the state still controls all retail liquor sales at its Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores.
And as of Monday afternoon, dust was all that remained on parts of those State Store shelves.
At the Drexel Hill store in Delaware County, Dave Campbell, 50, of Springfield, had to settle on a lesser-quality gin, as his favorite was sold out. But saké — another favorite beverage of his — was there for the taking, he said.
“This is to make being at home with the kids bouncing off the walls a bit more tolerable,” Campbell said of his $87 liquor purchase.
Helping take the edge off spending an indefinite amount of time in close proximity to your loved ones — and nobody else — was a motivating factor for many buyers Monday, like Bonnie Stills, 64, who picked up a handle of Tanqueray gin and two bottles of wine at the store in Conshohocken.
“I came because they’re closing and I’m going to be stuck in the house with my husband,” she said.
“Me too!” said the woman in line behind her.
While lines at the Conshohocken shop snaked to the back of the store, customers remained in good spirits, cashiers joked with shoppers, and associates offered pairing advice to novice drinkers.
Several people who declined to be interviewed purchased large quantities. One woman in sunglasses had 14 bottles of Tito’s in her cart, while an older couple stocked up by grabbing two cases of the cheap stuff.
Brian Milne, 35, of Plymouth Meeting, bought six bottles of vodka and two of Kahlua to mix White Russians. He wanted to make sure that like the Dude, he will abide during these trying times.
Milne said half of his friends are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. The others, not so much.
“I feel like half of my friends don’t care, and that half drank all my vodka over the weekend,” he said.
The State Store in Wayne on the Main Line seemed sleepy even for a Monday, though staffers said the weekend had been busy.
Sisters Sarah and Jackie Steskal of Chalfont already had two boxes of wine, a magnum of wine, a case of hard seltzer, and a case of beer at home, but came to the store to stock up. Given the uncertain times, they wanted to be prepared.
“Today is wine and vodka day,” said Sarah Steskal, 27.
“This is like preparing for a snowstorm,” said Jackie Steskal, 31.
At the Conshohocken store, Stills said she was not sure what to prepare for, or how to feel.
But having a well-stocked liquor cabinet doesn’t hurt.