U.S. alcohol sales increase amid coronavirus pandemic

WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans live in places that are under stay at home orders or encouraging social distancing, and many seem to be passing the time in the company of alcohol.

Nielson research shows alcoholic beverage sales increased in March — sales were up by 55% in the third week of March compared to the same week last year. In 40 states, and Washington D.C. liquor stores are considered an “essential business.”

Jarrett Dieterle with R Street, a nonprofit public policy research organization, says the increase in sales is also because many states are temporarily relaxing alcohol purchase laws.

“Places like Virginia have started allowed distilleries to deliver and ship which they couldn’t do before,” he said.

What this tells David Ozgo, the chief economist for the distilled spirits council, happy hours are still continuing, just at home.

“Recently we’ve seen a lot of pre-mixed cocktails, and that is really indicative of the fact that there are a lot of folks who previously might have gone to a bar or restaurant and now they are serving themselves at home,” Ozgo said.

But, that does mean that bars and restaurants — already feeling the crunch of only being able to offer takeout and delivery — that hoped people would turn to them for take-out alcohol orders may be disappointed.

“They can do to go cocktails, that’s great, but there is still no real substitute for them to actually have the dining room presence,” Ozgo said.