As Delawareans prepare to hunker down under an expanded State of Emergency expected to take place next week, local liquor stores are seeing historic spikes in sales with people stocking up on anything they can.
Branmar Wine & Spirits saw a line stretched out the door on Saturday with people concerned about making sure they have enough booze to survive a long-term quarantine.
And the store is now asking its customers who follow them on Facebook to bring their own wine bags because they are “rapidly running out of packing boxes.”
Shana Petruccelli said she expected there to be a line at her neighborhood spirits store today. “I thought today was going to be busy. So I just figured that since I was going to the drug store, I might as well come pick up some more alcohol, because we just don’t know when everything will be completely shut down,” said Petruccelli.
The north Wilmington business says the line is due to both increased demand and also a reduced number of customers they will allow inside the store in observance of physical distancing guidelines to prevent spread of coronavirus. Even with fewer customers inside, both lanes were busy checking out customers all day long.
In Wilmington, Frank Pagliaro has seen a surge in sales of wine, beer and spirits all week, noting an increase by local shoppers and many from neighboring Pennsylvania. “Ever since the state of Pennsylvania closed their doors for wine and spirits stores — since last Saturday night — it’s been like Christmas Eve every day. Insane,” said Pagliaro, who owns Franks Wine on Union Street.
Pennsylvania state-run liquor stores were forced by their governor to close last week. However, beer distributors in the state are free to remain open.
In response to the growing demand Pagliaro has extended his Sunday hours and he’s now open on Mondays, which he typically only does in November and December.
Pagliaro is aware that only “essential businesses” will be allowed to remain open starting next week. Governor Carney announced today on MSNBC that he would be taking that step next week. But Pagliaro says if the ban is extended to liquor stores, black market liquor sales will fill the void.
“Beer distributors are an essential business in Pennsylvania. In New York City, liquor stores are essential. So hopefully Governor Carney will follow that lead and we’ll be here, because it’s not going to be pretty… They’re going to break in and loot liquor stores and bars and restaurants, it’s going to be horrible,” said Pagliaro.
On Monday the Branmar Plaza liquor store plans to take an added measure by not allowing customers inside. They plan to set up tables outside “with yellow pads and pens” where employees can write down what customers would like. “A willing and happy employee will go get what you want, place it on the counter, tell you how much it is, and finish the transaction,” the store manager said in a Facebook post. And they are encouraging customers to call ahead.
Dan Thomas was unfazed by the line at Branmar Wine & Spirits and the frenzy of Americans who are hoarding grocery essentials. “We don’t need to stock up on toilet paper, we will all survive if need be. But between that and the run on Lysol, thank god there’s liquor,” he said.
Thomas, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said he was hitting a bunch of stores and “getting the necessary Class Six alcohol” to wait out the quarantine.
He says one of his biggest concerns about the coronavirus is the 24-hour news cycle devoted to the issue. “I think we need to have a little more faith in our leaders and get rid of the partisanship. We need to kind of come together, or we’re going to fall apart. This is a great neighborhood, I love New Castle County. But I think it’s time to calm down and pace ourselves,” he said.
Pagliaro said his 6,000 square foot store can safely accommodate plenty of customers who can manage to keep at least six feet apart. But like the Branmar shop, FranksWine also offering curbside service.
“Funny enough, people are pretty confused about what curbside service means,” said Pagliaro, who says many call ahead customers are walking in and paying at the counter.
“It’s very simple,” said Pagliaro. “You call ahead, place your order. We’ll walk around the store and FaceTime if you want, show you the products, make recommendations, pack up your order, take it to the register, scan it, give you a call, get your credit card information. When you pull up to the lot, give us a call and pop your trunk, we’ll come outside and put your order in your trunk.”