by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bars may be closed, but people in the United States haven’t stopped drinking.
Alcohol sales were up 55% in the third week of March, according to data from the market research firm Nielsen. Tequila, gin, and pre-mixed cocktails experienced the highest jump in sales, with an increase of 77% compared to the same week in 2019.
Beer and wine sales also saw a healthy boost. Beer sales climbed 44% while purchases of wine grew 66%. Online alcohol sales also saw a massive rise in popularity. When compared to 2019, online alcohol sales rose 243%.
Danelle Kosmal, a vice president at Nielsen, suggested that the boost in sales could be from people stocking up their supplies in case liquor stores were closed or deemed nonessential. Both Pennsylvania and Alabama announced that liquor stores would be forced to close as part of the states’ responses to the coronavirus.
Many other states that have issued stay-at-home orders included liquor stores as essential businesses. Some states have also expanded their laws to allow for delivery and takeout of alcoholic beverages for bars that have been ordered to close.
Carolina Journal Online has focused attention on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact for North Carolina’s alcohol-related industries. John Trump and Kari Travis write:
Curbside sales only go so far, and direct online sales aren’t allowed under N.C. ABC statutes.
The focus these days is on hand sanitizer, which, in addition to ethanol — high-proof alcohol — includes things such as glycerin and hydrogen peroxide.
Distillers can use the denatured alcohol — which can’t be consumed — for tax-free hand-sanitizing products, as long as it follows federal tax, and food and drug rules. The recent stimulus package is likely to bring distillers more economic relief.
Cultivated Cocktails Distillery in Asheville has made more than 2,400 gallons of sanitizer, including eight full totes, with seven more on the way.
“I’ve gone from running logistics on production and marketing to logistics on making sure the sanitizer reaches as many people as possible,” says the distillery’s Leah Pressley Howard.