With many bars and restaurants closed and others selling only takeout beer and wine, resourceful Pennsylvania residents are mixing drinks at home and turning on their webcams for virtual happy hours with friends. But you still need supplies–like liquor–for socially distanced drinking, and getting them could be a problem in the near future.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf said the state’s wine and spirits shops will remain closed along with other non-essential businesses for the duration of the COVID-19 shutdown. Wolf ordered the stores closed as part of the shutdown March 16.
In a compromise move, he announced that limited wine and liquor sales by the state would resume online. That’s only if you can access the website, however.
Since Wednesday, most visitors to FineWineAndGoodSpirits.com have been met with a message that says “due to overwhelming demand, the online store is not available at this time. Please try again tomorrow or in the coming days. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
According to a news release published on the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) website, a “controlled number of orders per day” are being processed online “with plans to increase order capacity as fulfillment capacity increases.”
The news release further explained that site access is being “randomized” to help prevent overwhelming the site with record traffic, to prevent order abuse and to prolong access throughout the day, so product availability isn’t exhausted within a matter or minutes.
“We expect consumer interest and site traffic to exceed what we’ll be able to fulfill, at least initially, so we ask that customers be patient and understand that the PLCB is doing the best it can under extraordinary circumstances to balance consumer demand and public health,” said PLCB board chairman Tim Holden.
Customers who are able to place orders will be limited to purchasing up to six bottles per transaction from a limited catalog of about 1,000 of the state’s top-selling wines and spirits. All orders are required to be shipped to home or non-store addresses, and only one order per address will be fulfilled per day, the PLCB said in the news release.
The PLCB said it is not currently considering reopening wine and spirits stores, although it will continue to monitor the situation in consultation with the Wolf administration and public health officials.
“We understand the public wants to have access to wines and spirits during these unprecedented times, but we have a responsibility to mitigate community spread of this virus to every extent possible and make sure our employees and our customers are as safe as they can be,” said Holden. “We believe that re-opening FineWineAndGoodSpirits.com in a controlled manner will allow us to provide access to consumers while also protecting our employees and consumers from unnecessary risk.”
Some neighboring states like New Jersey have kept their liquor stores open during the coronavirus pandemic, which in some cases has triggered pandemonium as panicked Pennsylvania shoppers have flooded across the border to buy booze.
In addition to online, Pennsylvanians can also purchase wine directly from vineyards like Black River Farms in Lower Saucon Township, which remains open for sales.
For more information about the online sale of wine and spirits during Pennsylvania’s coronavirus shutdown of non-essential businesses, visit the PLCB website.