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COVID-19 Increases ABC Stores Sales, But Restaurants Struggle

liquor bottles
Bottles of liquor at a Richmond ABC store. (Photo: Patrick Larsen/VPM News)

Patrick Larsen reported this story.

Coronavirus restrictions have deeply affected all of Virginia’s industries, with businesses around the state facing losses. But sales aren’t down for everything - ABC stores are selling more alcohol than usual this year.

According to CEO Travis Hill, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority expects about 5% growth in sales each year at their stores. Since the pandemic started, it’s been more than twice that, at over 11%.

In a Senate committee meeting on Tuesday, Hill told lawmakers that the sales are partially due to lack of competition. Restaurant and bar sales dropped to zero when stores closed, and although new rules allowing sales of cocktails-to-go have helped some businesses, Hill said alcohol sales still sit at just half of pre-lockdown levels.

ABC has seen holiday season level sales since March. The agency’s warehouse is running out of certain spirits at a higher rate than previous years due to the high sales and supply chain problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hill said it’s unclear what the holiday season will hold. Continued stock shortages could be worsened by even higher demand - but that could all change if the state’s economic situation worsens.