HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The coronavirus is dramatically impacting the sale of alcohol and how the state is handling operations.
Authorities with the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control explained to News 3 what they are doing to keep customers and their employees safe.
They said they have added social distancing markers on the floor in the stores, have allowed only 10 customers inside stores at one time and have installed plexiglass shields in Hampton Roads.
They said Hampton Roads got plexiglass shields first because the need was greater in the region due to reports of community spread.
“We really wanted to make sure that our employees and our customers were protected. We’re moving to other parts of the state with those plexiglass shields,” said Dawn Eischen, an ABC spokesperson.
They said out of 388 ABC stores across the state, 19 are closed right now. They said 16 stores have closed due to staffing shortages – including one on Princess Anne Boulevard in Virginia Beach.
Three Virginia stores have closed to due employees testing positive for COVID-19 in other parts of the state.
Previously, a store in Virginia Beach closed due to an employee testing positive for the virus, but it has since reopened.
“We want to just put it all out there. These are the guidelines that we're following so that people know if they see one of our stores closed, they go to our website [and] they know why,” said Eischen.
ABC reports they have seen sales increase dramatically across the region.
This March, they say they sold $107 million worth of alcohol compared to $88 million sold in March 2019 and $85 million in March 2018.
Below is more information about ABC store sales since the pandemic began:
Officials said restaurants in the Commonwealth are a significant portion of Virginia ABC’s spirits sales on an ongoing basis. They said issues connected with the coronavirus have resulted in a reduction of spirits sales to these businesses. They said they typically make approximately 17-18% of Virginia ABC’s spirits sales. They reported that last week, sales to people with licenses dropped to 0.5%.
They said all of Virginia ABC’s sales increases came from retail customers taking spirits home, also known as off-premises consumption.
They reported some of the biggest spikes were sales for the time period from Sunday, March 15 to Saturday, March 21, which totaled just over $30 million, an increase of $11.1 million - or 59% - over the same week last year, and $4.5 million over the previous week.
Eischen said she believes people panicked, “thinking that the stores might be shut down. That most likely is what happened when we saw that drastic spike. Now, it’s leveling off, so it’s really been very sporadic.”
They said the goal is to have curbside pickup at all their locations by the end of the month. Now, you can call your store to see if they do it.
“We just want the public and our employees to know that we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe,” said Eischen.
Below is information about their protocol:
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) implemented a protocol for facility closures due to COVID-19, based on guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ABC facilities include stores, regional Bureau of Law Enforcement offices, the warehouse and central office.
If an employee notifies their supervisor that they tested positive for COVID-19, ABC will take the following steps:
- Determine the sick employee’s last date of contact with the ABC facility and any employees.
- All employees who had direct contact with the sick employee will remain in quarantine up to 14 days from the last shift worked with the sick employee. Those employees will be eligible for Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL).
- If the sick person has not been in the ABC facility for at least seven days, that location will not close. Frequently touched surfaces will be deep cleaned.
- If the employee has been in the ABC facility within seven days prior to their positive test result, the location will be closed, professionally deep cleaned and sanitized, and reopened when ABC has determined the risk of community spread has been mitigated. In the case of a large facility, such as the warehouse or central office, only that portion of the location where the employee’s work takes place would be closed or otherwise have access limited.