NEW YORK - At Astor Wines and Spirits in the East Village, customers are not pushing the carts - the staff is.
Deemed an “essential business” by Governor Andrew Cuomo, liquor stores are allowed to stay open amid the coronavirus outbreak. Still, management recently made the decision to close to foot traffic - an effort made in the hopes of keeping staff from getting sick.
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Now they’re only doing business online and by phone, either through pick up or delivery. Even so - this is the busiest the store has been in its more than 50 years doing business.
"We’re busier than we were at Christmas currently our next delivery date is April 1. Which is 10 to 12 days from now usually we're only three days out," said Astor Wines and Spirits COO Rob Fisher.
Fisher says orders began to stack up as the city began to shut down. At first he wasn’t sure if the influx was real.
"It was a shock to us in fact. The first day I thought something we thought there was a problem with the computer system," said Fisher. "I think there was panic, people wanted to hoard.”
Now where customers would normally be browsing the selection sit boxes upon boxes of orders and a seemingly endless line of shopping carts - waiting to be packed for delivery. Staff are there 12 hours a day trying to catch up but with so many other New Yorkers out of work the staff consider themselves lucky.
"It’s really a tumultuous time in the industry as a whole," said Lorena Ascencios, a wine buyer at Astor Wines and Spirits.
In fact, Ascencios is doing more now than her job usually entails.
"I’m normally not involved in the operations aspect of it but to tell you the truth I kinda like it," Ascencios said.
Customers are happy too. Some weren’t sure if liquor stores would make the list of essential businesses allowed to operate amid the pandemic but were relieved to find they could still get what they’re looking for.
"Fancy bottle of scotch for a friend of mine that just had his second 2kid. And loves scotch," said one customer.
Not everyone is in agreement liquor stores are really essential at a time like this. But it's up to states and cities to decide. In addition to New York, New Jersey and Illinois have decided to keep liquor stores open. But in the city of Denver they are closed.