tampa bay liquor covid19
SAFETY FIRST: A shielded cashier's counter at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.

The ABC's of Selling Liquor During a Pandemic

It’s not just restaurants that are having to find new ways of serving the public during the current crisis. Wine purveyors and liquor stores are facing challenges, too.

But there’s this big difference: Where many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, wine and liquor stores are seeing a big uptick in business. 

With 125 stores statewide, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits had to adapt overnight to meet the demand of customers, says ABC Chief Marketing Officer Sean Kelly. That included allowing for a shift in buying habits, as customers who would normally buy just a bottle or two of wine are now buying cases at a time, and bottles of liquor are being requested in larger sizes. Online orders doubled immediately and kept doubling, which prompted the introduction of curbside delivery and an increase in regular home deliveries, in some cases delivering the same day orders are received.

“On daily response calls with the stores,” says Kelly, “we had to adjust rapidly to the increased demand and figure out what could be done to keep the stores open for our customers, make their shopping experience as comfortable as possible, and provide a safe environment. We have been getting guidance from local and state health officials, as well as the CDC, and we are constantly adjusting as recommendations evolve.”

Measures taken so far include signage reminding people of the six-foot social distancing rules; checklists for team members to make sure they’re cleaning and sanitizing constantly, especially the handles on carts, baskets and checkout areas; cashier shields at the register; and masks, at first just for those making curbside deliveries and come Monday, for all store personnel. Contactless curbside pickup was instituted two weeks ago, and there’s now the option of contactless pay at the register. 

Despite the increase in online ordering, says Kelly, the vast majority of guests still prefer to go to their local ABC store, look around, talk to the associates that they know and purchase their bottles.

I can totally understand. Being a wine girl, roaming the aisles in a favorite wine store and choosing several special bottles of wine is akin to visiting an old friend. Nowadays, it’s the equivalent of a big day out.

But if those trips to the store can’t include a convivial moment of sampling wines and chatting with a wine rep anymore, never fear: ABC has that covered, too. They’ve started Virtual Tastings, where you can order the wine ahead of time and taste it at home — while learning about the wine virtually.

Virtual tasting, anyone?

For information on ordering wines from ABC Fine Wines & Spirits, go to abcfws.com.

Author: Tracey Serebin