Wholesalers warn of ‘black market liquor’ if liquor stores close amid coronavirus


If other states follow Pennsylvania Run and shut down liquor stores, you might soon be negotiating with your local illicit moonshiner or bootlegger for a drink at home.

In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the governors issue emergency closures of many audiences gathering places, such as restaurants, gyms, bars and spas. But if this ban is extended to liquor stores, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America say black market liquors will take their place.

WSWA CEO and President Michelle Korsmo said in a prepared statement: “In a crisis, unintended consequences are a major concern for industries and individuals.” Korsmo implored governors to keep wine and spirits retailers open “so as not to encourage bad actors to open black market liquor operations.”

Historically, when an alcohol ban is struck, illegal activities fill the thirsty void. Most notably, Prohibition gave life to mobs, millionaire smugglers, and homemade alcohol who killed people. Even as Pennsylvania closes its stores, consumers in that state are flocking to Delaware to buy alcohol.

There are simply “too many creative ways” to limit alcohol sales right now, says Chris Swonger, President and CEO of Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the main lobby for the liquor industry.

Swonger cited Alabamaof sidewalk choice and keep stores to a minimum of 10 people, while New York has allowed one a cold to include in your take out order at the restaurant. Not to mention, there are many online delivery services that bring you alcohol directly. Drizly reported that he broke a one day record.

“We fully recognize the need to protect the public, but we still have to meet the needs of consumers and support the hospitality industry,” noted Swonger.

Swonger’s sentiment appears to be supported by the public, as people rush to the liquor store fill up on alcohol. Given the hysteria, it’s hard to imagine the public not losing their minds to the closures.

But the threat of liquor store closures is just one of the issues facing the alcohol industry right now. Distillers are calling for federal excise tax relief, help with zero-interest, low-interest loans, tariff suspension and an industry stabilization fund.

“As Congress moves swiftly to provide economic assistance to affected businesses, we urge you to remind yourself of the important role of distilleries in your home states and across the country and their inextricable link with the hospitality industries,” foodservice, tourism and retail, ”said a joint statement from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the American Craft Spirits Association, the New York State Distillers Guild and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Fred minnick has covered the spirits industry for 15 years. He wrote Bourbon: The, Rise, Fall & Rebirth of American Whiskey. Follow him on Instagram. Watch his latest Youtube video what alcohol to use hand sanitizer.

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