With bars closed temporarily and sporting events canceled, some Boston-area residents are stocking up with enough beer, wine and other spirits to tipple through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liquor stores have been flooded with customers looking to calm their fears over the novel coronavirus, which has upended life across Massachusetts. Stores report long lines of shoppers and empty shelves as residents prepare to hunker down at home.
At Gary’s Liquors in Chestnut Hill, there were 67 shoppers in line at one point last week, according to cashier Evilesi Romero.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of long lines,” Romero said by phone from the store Wednesday afternoon, adding that customers are taking precautions. “Everybody has gloves and masks and is using hand sanitizer nonstop.”
The crowds have been buying large quantities of wine and bottled water — and grain alcohol, “because of people using it as hand sanitizer,” Romero said.
Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits started seeing more business right after Governor Charlie Baker announced Sunday that bars would close, employees there said.
“It seems like some people are stocking up for when things get worse, but then it also seems like some of them are just going about their daily schedules — but with a bottle of hand sanitizer in their pockets,” said one employee, who declined to give his name.
Mystic Wine Shoppe in Arlington has seen about a 50 percent uptick in sales since the beginning of last week, owner Eric Faiola said in a phone interview.
Faiola said customers are buying “everything. Just across the board — it’s spirits, it’s beer, it’s wine. They want to make sure they have enough to get them through for a little while.”
The store had to stock up quickly, Faiola said, but that hasn’t been a problem — yet — because distributors are still selling and trucks are still delivering.
“I wasn’t anticipating this last week when I did all my ordering, and then things basically exploded last Thursday when they announced the schools were closing,” he said, adding later, “I had people buying two or three cases at a time, and that was basically a two-week supply.”
At DeLuca’s Market on Beacon Hill, which features a wine cellar, owner Virgil Aiello said customers have been coming in big numbers since the announcement that Baker was shutting down bars and restaurants.
“People are shopping closer to home. They still need the essentials, so instead of having a lot of options, they’re going to choose something close,” Aiello said.
Some liquor store employees said business was up only a little, and some chain stores referred the Globe to corporate management, which didn’t return phone calls.
At Gordon’s Fine Wines and Liquors in downtown Boston, a neighborhood where foot traffic has diminished dramatically, there have been fewer sales to walk-in customers but more orders coming in through an online delivery service, according to manager Van McLaughlin.
At Roslindale Liquors, in the neighborhood’s central shopping area, manager Daxesh Patel said regular customers who usually buy a bottle or two are now buying three or four.
“It’s not that crazy, like the supermarkets,” Patel said, adding that the neighborhood store mostly serves walk-in customers buying small quantities.
As he spoke, , Patel pulled down his surgical mask, and he pointed out the bottle of hand sanitizer on his countertop and a large container of germicidal wipes, saying he uses them routinely on doors and other surfaces.
South End resident Paige Mulhern, 27, was inside Roslindale Liquors with two friends Wednesday, picking up a bottle of whiskey that she expected to last weeks or months.
“This is my first day out of the house in four days, so I am practicing social distancing and trying to flatten the curve,” Mulhern said, employing the jargon officials use to describe efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. She explained that she was “just getting last-minute essentials in preparation for any larger shutdown that might occur.”
Mulhern, who works in project management and design, said she feels fortunate she has been able to work from home so far, and running errands with her friends Devon LaChapelle and Mel Taing — who has a car and volunteered to drive — is about as much socializing as she can do right now.
“I don’t want to take Lyfts, or the subway, so this was the opportunity to give what we can to each other and support each other,” she said.