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Run on booze during COVID-19 at some Calgary liquor stores

Calgarians are stocking up on their favourite bevvies, as some city liquor stores are seeing a boost in business for those getting their coronavirus drink on.

After the province announced the closure of bars on March 17, liquor stores are one of the only retail locations to buy booze.

Tony Yearwood, manager of the Shawnessy Real Canadian Liquor store, said his store has seen a flood of customers stocking up over the last three weeks.

“We didn’t anticipate that type of volume. Once we were able to get a couple of orders after noticing the trends, we stayed on top of it,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood said limits on buying alcohol in stores aren’t in place.

“They haven’t been necessary as there was plenty of stock available from suppliers for our top sellers,” he said.

Measures to protect staff and customers in place

In late-March, Loblaws announced plans to install plexiglass dividers at checkout points inside all Superstore and Liquorstore locations across Canada.

“Our cashiers appreciate it a lot and they were installed quickly as well. We’re taking a lot of steps to keep our workplace clean and sanitized during this pandemic,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood said employees are wiping down surfaces such as PIN pads, door handles, and keyboards every three hours. The company also provided new sanitization and cleaning logs to employees.

“Our staff are equipped with gloves and hand sanitizer at checkout. We also limit the number of people allowed in our store at a time,” Yearwood said.

Yearwood said three to four employees will be inside the store at one time. Another measure was the addition of social distancing markers on the floor for customers.

“We have strict social distancing policies for employees and limits on how many staff can be in an area. We have signs that display the capacity of each room,” he said.

One of the plexiglass dividers installed at the Shawnessy Real Canadian Liquorstore. TONY YEARWOOD

Theft continues during outbreak

In the past month, Yearwood said 15 to 20 thefts took place at his store.

“Thefts were a growing problem before the pandemic started. We’ve got security working in our high-theft stores. It’s a problem that many liquor stores across Canada have been dealing with,” Yearwood said.

“Sometimes, it’s just someone stealing a bottle or a group stealing a few bottles,” he said.

Yearwood said that they’ve been working with Calgary police following every theft.

“We call in every theft that happens and file a report. They’ve recovered a decent amount of stolen product for us. Unfortunately, they don’t always catch them,” he said.

‘I’ve been very thankful’

Yearwood said it was a stressful time for himself when cases of the coronavirus first appeared in Alberta.

“I didn’t know if we were going to get shut down. I’ve been very thankful to be working through this despite being on the front lines,” he said.

“I know there are people who aren’t working right now and dealing with a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

Yearwood said he feels at ease with the actions his employer has taken to ensure their health and safety.

“I’ve been washing my hands more than frequently than ever,” he said.