Salesman Vincent Nicolo loads a box of liquor into the trunk of...

Salesman Vincent Nicolo loads a box of liquor into the trunk of a car waiting curbside at Stew Leonard's Wines & Spirits in Farmingdale on Saturday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Liquor stores in the time of coronavirus are seeing a boom in sales resembling the holiday season as customers place orders online for curbside pickup or delivery and visit locations throughout Long Island.

“It’s like Christmas in March,” said Sonny, an employee at Cost Cut Liquors on Ruland Road in Melville who asked to be identified only by his first name. Just a half-hour after opening on Saturday morning, his store was full of customers, he said.

“It was very busy yesterday and I see it’s going to be very busy again today,” he said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday ordered the shutdown of nonessential businesses in the state by 8 p.m. Sunday. Although liquor stores have been deemed essential and will remain open, customers have been stocking up on their favorite drinks. Many are choosing to make cocktails and drink their wine at home since their favorite restaurants and bars are closed except for takeout and delivery.

Some restaurants are delivering alcohol with the food, according to reports.

“We’re nonstop running around the store restocking,” said Frank Multani, owner of Seaside Wine and Liquors on Merrick Road in Wantagh. “Luckily, distributors are still running right now, so we’re able to get whatever we need to restock.”

Multani said sales were three to four times the usual for March, with most customers taking advantage of the store’s delivery service.

Wearing face masks, Ruth and William Gibson of Amityville stocked...

Wearing face masks, Ruth and William Gibson of Amityville stocked up on wine at Stew Leonard's Wines & Spirits in Farmingdale on Saturday. Credit: Barry Sloan

“People are buying a lot of spirits and liqueurs that they probably wouldn’t normally because they’re stuck at home and experimenting more with cocktails,” said Blake Leonard, wine adviser and spokesperson for Stew Leonard’s Wines and Spirits of Farmingdale.

Sales have tripled “across the board” over the last couple of weeks, Leonard said.

Tito’s vodka is “selling like crazy,” she said. “A lot of people are making the ‘quarantini,’ which is just a normal martini that you make at home and drink alone in your house; but whether you’re making it with gin or vodka, we’ve seen those sales increase.”

Sales for some spirits that normally don’t sell as much in March, such as aperol, have tripled, Leonard said.

“We’re seeing people trade up with wine, where normally they would spend $10 to $15 on a bottle, they’re trading up for bottles of wine over $20, splurging on something beyond their everyday purchase,” Leonard said. Not only are customers buying more expensive bottles but they’re also buying in larger quantities, she said.

Liquor stores don't see any sign of distributors closing nor a supply shortage, managers said.

“The distributors have a ton of products right now, so luckily in terms of the supply chain there aren’t any issues at the moment,” Leonard said. “For right now and the foreseeable future, we don’t believe that we’ll have to put a limit on anything.”

Some customers have been purchasing numerous bottles of liquor and wine at once, said Matt Scordato, store manager at Bottle Values in Old Bethpage.

“I feel like it’s panic buying,” Scordato said. “I’ve been doing this for seven years and I’ve never seen anything like this. Not even Christmas or Thanksgiving, which are typically busy times of the year, compares to this. It’s completely out of control.”

Bottle Values on Saturday closed the store to customers, only taking orders online for the safety and health of their employees, Scordato said.

“Don’t panic, there’s plenty of liquor and wine in the pipeline,” Scordato said, as a message to customers. “There’s no need to hoard it. We’re considered an essential service. We’ll still be here.”

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