Package Liquor Stores Are Safely Serving Their Communities During COVID-19

Holiday Week Highlights Package Liquor Store Month this November 


November 24, 2020 – BETHESDA, MD – As Americans find safe ways to “gather”, give thanks and kick-off the holiday season this week, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) is reminding everyone that America’s package liquor stores are doing their part to safely and responsibly serve their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


November is Package Liquor Store Month, and this week presents consumers with an opportunity to visit their local beer, wine and spirits shop to find drinks to pair with their favorite Thanksgiving foods.  The holiday week also includes “Black Friday”, when many shoppers traditionally head out to purchase beverage gifts for their friends and families, as well as “Small Business Saturday”, when many will make a point to support beverage merchants by shopping local.


Package stores, which traditionally sell beer, wine and spirits and, in some cases, food items and other goods, have been deemed “essential businesses” by governments in nearly every state during the COVID-19 pandemic.  With an essential designation has come the responsibility of following enhanced public safety guidelines to make sure their employees and customers can safely shop for their favorite brands.


‘New Normal’ Means Adapting to a Changed Marketplace


The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for package liquors stores, but for many it will be a continuation of a busy year thanks to a shift in beer, wine and spirits consumption from on-premise occasions to adults enjoying beverages at home.  Managing increases in customer counts – and changes to how consumers purchase beverage alcohol – have required agility and flexibility from what are otherwise strictly regulated businesses.  State regulatory changes that have expanded – and in some states required – curbside sales, or in other states permitted local delivery, mean that liquor stores have had to invest in these labor-intensive operations to safely serve shoppers.


Package liquor stores are also adapting to the growth of e-commerce, with many improving their digital point-of-sales platforms and increasing their online presence for those customers who choose to shop online.  By creating a more robust online presence, traditional beverage retailers are doing virtually what they have always done in their stores: introducing consumers to a vast assortment of trusted brands and new and exciting products.  Package stores carry a wide selection of products – local, national and imported – and as dedicated beverage alcohol experts provide a level of service and information about products that makes a trip to the local package liquor store something to look forward to.


Public Safety Emphasis Not New for Liquor Stores


Liquor store owners and operators have always been committed to responsibility by training employees to comply with state laws, verifying shoppers’ ages by checking identification, and working with elected officials, regulators, law enforcement and other community leaders to make sure they are doing their part to keep alcohol out of underage hands.  They know that no sale is worth risking their standing in their community.


Now, another leg has been added to the responsibility stool as beverage retailers are charged with keeping their staff and customers safe from a deadly virus.  By and large, America’s beverage retailers have answered the call.


Many individual off-premise beverage licensees have spent tens of thousands of dollars to regularly clean their stores, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff, offer hand sanitizer and masks to customers, and change their business models to accommodate the concerns and wishes of their guests.  Whether re-routing aisles in their stores, hiring greeters to monitor store capacity, or working with their team members to make sure they feel protected, “safe is the new normal” for package liquor stores.


Package store owners have also been thrust into the politics of mask-wearing, with some facing physical attacks on their staff by customers who disagree with their store policies.  Retailers have adopted firm policies for mask-wearing and age verification to make sure they are following state COVID guidelines, treat guests fairly and equally, and protect their frontline employees from the coronavirus and physical harm.


Advocating for the Best Alcohol Marketplace in the World


Since the onset of the pandemic, package stores and their state associations have been working with governors’ offices and state regulators to allow hospitality businesses to continue to serve their communities.  Through ABL and directly, they have been advocating for federal relief for local small businesses and their employees, including for their bar and tavern colleagues who have born the brunt of the pandemic’s economic devastation.  At stake is a retail beverage alcohol industry that includes hundreds of thousands of businesses, over 2 million jobs, $122 billion in economic activity and $27 billion in taxes.


American package stores provide a greater selection of beer, wine and spirits than any other country in the world while fostering innovation, competition and responsibility.  They operate day-in and day-out in an orderly, state-regulated alcohol system that has successfully balanced access with accountability, product choice with product safety, and customer service with community awareness.


As we give thanks this week, ABL encourages everyone to take a moment to recognize their local wine shops, liquor stores, beer stores and package stores, whose owners, operators and staff turn the key to open and close their Main Street essential businesses every day.