Liquor store regulations flexible during COVID-19 pandemic

Joplin Area Coronavirus

FILE – In this June 16, 2016, file photo, bottles of wine are displayed during a tour of a state liquor store, in Salt Lake City. According to federal health statistics, Americans are drinking more now than when Prohibition was enacted a century earlier. What’s more, it’s been rising for two decades, and it’s not clear when it will fall again. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The coronavirus pandemic is forcing local businesses to close or change their routines to abide by the Department of Health’s standards.

For liquor stores, these standards are flexible.

Liquor World Manager Steve Hotchkiss said, “The mindset seems to have switched from the panic to okay we’re in this for the long haul.”

Business at Liquor World in Fayetteville has been somewhat of a roller coaster.

As the number of cases of coronavirus grows, so do the restrictions on businesses.

Scott Hardin, the spokesperson for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, said, “Governor Hutchinson issued a directive that requires restaurants and bars to provide delivery services and really no dine in service at restaurants.”

Liquor stores are not part of this directive.

While they are encouraged to only use drive-through, delivery, or curb side pick-up services—legally, they can still allow customers inside to shop.

So what about social distancing?

“It’s a big store so that helps,” said Hotchkiss. “People can walk around and have the ability to not be in a crowd.”

Even though Liquor World doesn’t have a drive-through, it’s still doing curbside pickup or letting you shop inside the store.

According to Hardin, this isn’t breaking any rules.

“A liquor store is treated like any retail establishment would be and it’s not under any formal closure order so allowing customers in is not breaking any formal directive,” he said.

Hotchkiss said, “We can do the order over the phone, do the credit card over the phone. It’s real easy and they don’t have to have any contact with us.”

But, Hardin said this current directive isn’t set in stone.

He said, “For the next 30 days they’ll have that ability. This is not a permanent role. It’s a temporary role. It allows liquor stores again to remain competitive in a really tough time.”

Liquor World hopes to keep its competitive edge—not just for itself, but for the local businesses it serves.

“I still have Ozark Beer here to sell. I want to take care of those guys too. There’s a lot of service industry out there that’s hurting and struggling right now and every little bit we can do to help them, ease their pain, we want to do that,” said Hotchkiss.

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