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Alcohol demand still high

Which has the longer odds: Pennsylvanians finding rubbing alcohol in a store or Pennsylvanians obtaining liquor from a state store?

It’s anybody’s guess.

It’s been difficult to find rubbing alcohol — as well as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and toilet paper — since the coronavirus panic started a month ago when Gov. Tom Wolf told thousands of businesses to close. Also ordered closed were the state wine and spirits stores.

The state store closings left Pennsylvanians running across the border to buy liquor in other states. And it wasn’t just a few peopl3e. Ohio and West Virginia ordered counties on Pennsylvania’s borders to stop selling booze to Keystone Staters because the amount of traffic was so high officials feared it could spread COVID-19.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, in trying to meet demand, started taking online orders on a random basis with products being shipped. In the first 15 days of April, the agency said in a release, it handled a total of 23,0368 orders.

Now the agency is offering curbside pickup for telephone orders at 176 locations — the store in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center is the only Blair County site — but calls will only be accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until each location has maxed out on its daily limit of between 50 and 100 orders. Orders accepted must be paid with a credit card. A time for pickup will be set within a few days at a specified time.

While the PLCB is trying, the efforts will only be a fraction of what its stores typically handled.

According to its annual report for 2018-19, the five state stores in Blair County had 477,000 transactions in one year.

Based on taking telephone orders six days a week for 52 weeks, that’s an average of more than 1,500 a day.

One store at even at 100 a day will handle about 31,200 orders or less than 7 percent of the last fiscal year’s total for Blair County.

So the reality is it appears as long as COVID-19 is a concern that getting alcohol — whether for consuming via a state store or cleaning from a retailer’s shelf — is likely to be a matter of chance or luck for the foreseeable future.

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