Late Tuesday morning, a customer hands Tapati Sarkar a $40 winning lotto ticket to cash out and carefully puts two 1-liter bottles of whiskey on the counter.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price had earlier announced a stay-at-home order for residents to curb the looming coronavirus pandemic.
“Customers are saying, ‘what I’ll do is we’re going to stay home and just enjoy, drink,'” said Sarkar, operator of Hugo’s Liquor located in Ridglea Hills area. “Now the customers are asking me if I’ll be closing. And if we close, they say they’ll buy more.”
Tarrant County has implemented a shelter-in-place order that mandates the closure of non-essential activity. For now, liquor stores are allowed to remain open as it falls under the food and grocery sector.
And for now, local liquor stores are reporting a drastic increase in sales, while the future looks uncertain for other businesses facing low commercial activities.
“Friday and Saturday were too busy,” Sarkar said. “Other days were also busy.”
Before coronavirus was declared a pandemic about two weeks ago, sales at Hugo’s Liquor averaged $1,400 per day. At present, sales at the store have jumped to more than $3,000.
“Double. Double is going out, anything,” Sarkar said. “Double sales.”
The owner of Kings Liquor near TCU campus said business was booming at his store as well. “Whoever’s open, they’re busy,” he said.
Customers flocked Reggis Liquor in large numbers over the weekend. An associate, who didn’t give out his name, said the queue for customer checkouts seemed never-ending at one point.
“Haven’t had a chance to properly sit down since I started my shift,” the associate said on Saturday. “I started at noon. And it’s still going strong.”
At Chicotsky’s Liquor, it has started to feel a lot like Christmas. Because sales are through the roof just as during the holiday season, the store’s co-owner Robert Chicotsky said.
“If a person usually bought two or three bottles of wine, now they step up and buy six bottles or a case,” Chicotsky said. “I think they’re looking to stay at home for a long period of time. And they want to be sure they have plenty of wine and alcohol for the house and the family.”
Chicotsky is remaining vigilant, however. And he said he knows his business might need to shut down at any time.
“All my patrons feel that we’re an essential business,” Chicotsky said. “It’s a blessing in disguise in a way. It’s a good thing we’re still in business. But, on the other hand, we’re experiencing more exposure to the coronavirus.”
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have now crossed 33,000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 400 people have already died from the outbreak. In Tarrant County, there have been 71 cases. Three people have recovered and one has died from the disease.