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Liquor sales on the rise during coronavirus outbreak

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Officials with the Rowan Kannapolis ABC are reporting an increase in sales similar to surges seen before a snowfall or other significant weather events as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by a strain of coronavirus that has turned into a global pandemic.

There were six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rowan County on Wednesday.

Jake Alexander Boulevard ABC manager Mark Sokolowski, whose store is the largest run by the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC, has seen an increase of sales of 60-80% in the previous 10 business days. On some days, sales have been up as much as 300%.

Sokolowski attributed part of the jump in sales to stories about restrictions on ABC stores in other places.

“We are seeing a pretty large increase in the number of customers on a daily basis,” Sokolowski said. “Mostly customers are buying the largest-sized bottles. Whereas normally we sell more pints than half-gallons, now that’s reversed.”

Sokolowski said he thought sales would increase, but he has been surprised, too, by how much they increased and for how long, adding this is the first time the county has seen a situation like this.

Despite all the sales, however, Sokolowski said the store has remained well-supplied by the local and Raleigh warehouses.

Rowan Kannapolis ABC General Manager Terry Osborne said he’s not necessarily surprised that sales have skyrocketed, like many products in grocery stores. But he said that many folks would not believe how quickly products are being purchased. Customers have been buying one of those products, Everclear, to try to make hand sanitizer.

“I’m not saying we’re priding ourselves on that, it’s just a given that it is happening,” Osborne said.

He also stressed that money collected from ABC sales benefit local addiction prevention and treatment efforts.

All Rowan-Kannapolis ABC locations are taking extra precautions outbreak, he said. Stores are only accepting cards to reduce the amount of cash being passed between people, workers are wearing gloves and there have been more people brought on board for additional cleaning protocols. If the ABC does minimize hours at some point, it will allow for more cleaning.

ABC Board Chair Michael Price said the board leans on Osborne’s expertise to handle the ongoing situation.

“Our store hours are the same as they have been, and we’re doing everything we can to maintain a good, clean, safe environment for our customers and our staff,” Price said.

The latest sales number for all of the Rowan-Kannapolis locations will not be available until the end of the month. But February sales were already up 14.2%.

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