‘Totally crazy’: Alcohol sales skyrocket during pandemic

Not only are customers buying alcohol to drink, Cheers Liquor Mart said people are also using...
Not only are customers buying alcohol to drink, Cheers Liquor Mart said people are also using it to make their own hand sanitizer. (KKTV)
Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 8:28 AM MDT
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While many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus outbreak, liquor stores are reporting record sales.

The owner of Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs said his store saw a 100 percent increase in sales the week of March 16 -- the same week Gov. Jared Polis


11 News Reporter Jenna Middaugh interviewed Jack Backman, the owner of Cheers, one day after

. The capital city overturned that order just a few hours later.

“In those two hours while they didn’t rescind it, it was crazy because everybody thought, ‘Here we go. We’re going to shut everybody down,’” Backman said. “We were really busy from like 4-7.”

Not only are people buying alcohol to drink, Backman said customers are using Everclear and other grain alcohols to make their own hand sanitizer.

“We had a whole shelf full of Everclear with a couple cases of back up,” he said. “It was gone in four hours.”

The store is limiting customers to one bottle to make sure there’s enough for everyone.

“It goes quite a ways in making quite a bit.”

Cheers recently started offering curbside pick up to limit the number of people coming inside the store. Backman said employees are filling about 50 to 60 curbside orders a day.

“They can call in, place their order, pay for it over the phone,” he said. “When they get here, they call us, we just take it out. We get their car description, put it in their trunk. They don’t see us. They don’t touch us. It’s just a seamless thing and gone. We’re checking their IDs, though.”

Cheers said it’s also seen an increase in deliveries. The store offered the service before the pandemic started, but now, more people are taking advantage. The number of deliveries jumped from about 15 a day to 50-60.

“Totally crazy. Out of control,” Backman said. “The most difficult part right now is we have more going out the back almost than we do the front because we’re doing so many home deliveries. We just got done loading three vans, a truck and a car out the back door.”

The owner said the store has been so busy, he had to hire more people to help out.

“We’ve added three restaurant workers helping us do deliveries so we weren’t taking staff out of the store to keep the shelves full,” Backman said. “Everybody’s got rubber gloves on. Everybody’s cleaning. I did hire a person that’s been laid off from the salon industry, and that’s all she does. She’s walking, she’s cleaning handle doors, she’s cleaning registers, credit card machines, whatever we can see cleaned, employee break rooms. That’s her job. She’s just cleaning and sanitizing.”

If people want to come inside to shop, there are tape marks on the floor to keep people six feet apart at all times.

The store has also reduced its hours during the pandemic. Instead of closing at 9 or 10 p.m., Cheers will shut its doors at 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

“I don’t think people are going to be out that much at night,” Backman said. “It will discourage them from coming out and maybe even encourage them to do more curbside and more delivery orders, which is what we’re really encouraging people to do. That’s probably the safest thing anyone can do at this point.”

While business is booming right now, Backman said he’s not sure how long it’ll last.

“This thing is a day-to-day thing. We just don’t know. We don’t know how long this is going to last. We don’t know going forward if it’s going to scale down, if it’s going to scale up, so every day is an adventure.”