PORTLAND, Ore. — With restaurants and bars shuttered to patrons looking to have a drink in a social setting, Oregonians appear to have turned to their local liquor stores to make up for it home. According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, sales at liquor stores reached record levels in March as the COVID-19 outbreak progressed.
OLCC liquor stores sold almost $66 million in distilled spirits during March, the agency said — a nearly 20 percent increase over March for 2019, and the highest of any March on record. Still, December of 2019 hold the all-time sales record of $75.85 million.
"The upsurge in sales from agent-operated liquor stores is attributed to changes in consumer behavior due to the Covid-19 pandemic," the OLCC said. "Specifically, liquor consumption has shifted from sit-down bars and restaurants to consumers purchasing distilled spirits by-the-bottle for at home consumption."
In March of 2020, sales from businesses with an on-premises liquor license dropped to $6.4 million — less than half of the year before. Meanwhile, consumer liquor sales from other sources went up from $41.2 million last year to $59.5 million last month.
“These numbers may be alarming to those concerned about alcohol dependency, but it reflects the shift in consumption, not an increase in consumption,” said Steve Marks, OLCC Executive Director.
OLCC said that its been issuing refunds to bars and restaurants for returned liquor to the tune of $500,000.
The OLCC said that its been shipping more liquor, too — with a 32 percent increase in bottles shipped over March last year. The biggest part of those shipments happened over the space of just two days. March 18 and 19 became the biggest shipping days in OLCC history, the agency said, but shipments have since gone back to more normal levels.
“We appreciate our warehouse employees and liquor store agents across the state for being nimble enough to adapt to the new business model imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Marks. “Despite operating with less staff, and being open shorter hours, the combined efforts of liquor store agents are continuing to provide service while also generating an important source of revenue for the state during a time of limited economic activity.”