States Are Being Urged to Ban Alcohol Sales During the Pandemic

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images A man wearing a protective mask makes a purchase from a cashier wearing a protective mask as the coronavirus continues to spread on April 4, 2020, in New York City.

A sudden and noticeable increase in domestic violence, not just in the United States but around the world, has some urging states to consider banning alcohol sales for however long the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forces Americans to “shelter in place.”

“We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19 but they can trap women with abusive partners,” Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said Monday in a video statement posted on Twitter.

“We have seen horrifying global surges in domestic violence,” Guterres said. “In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled … For some women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: In their own homes.”

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesPeople shop at a liquor store on March 23, 2020, in Denver, Colorado. Mayor Michael Hancock announced that liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries would close across the city in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Hancock later shifted his stance, announcing on Twitter that liquor and marijuana stores “with extreme physical distancing in place” will be exempt from the mandated citywide closure of non-essential businesses.

Some American physicians and women’s shelter operators have called for a complete ban on alcohol sales during the pandemic, arguing that even though that could mean responsible citizens will have to give up their “quarantinis” and “Zoom Happy Hours,” the effects of cutting off the fuel supply to a known class of domestic abusers would be worth it.

Social Media Rumors That California and Illinois are Shutting Down Liquor Sales are False – For Now

Politifact has pointed out that stories circulating on Facebook and Twitter this past week saying some governors have already ordered an imminent halt to alcohol sales are false.

Just this weekend Monongalia and Hancock counties in West Virginia announced that, effective Monday evening, sales of liquor and beer to out-of-state residents will be banned, an order which mostly targets residents of nearby western Pennsylvania who have been crossing the state line to buy booze ever since Pennsylvania shut down its state-run network of off-premises liquor stores because of the virus outbreak.

Pennslyvania’s decision severely curtailed its residents’ ability to buy alcohol, but it didn’t close it off entirely because purchases directly from distilleries within that state are still allowed, and many have been implementing curbside sales operations as a result.

Although the West Virginia counties’ decision restricting sales to only those who can show a West Virginia driver’s license may have the effect of curtailing some of the home drinking going on across the state line, that was not the stated reason for the ban. Instead, local health officials said they are hoping the ban will increase the effectiveness of their “social distancing” efforts by cutting down on interstate shopping trips to their liquor stores.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty ImagesA sign at Whole Foods reads, “Please respect social distancing guidelines by waiting behind the taped lines” amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 5, 2020, in New York City.

Liquor Industry Warns of a Black Market if a Ban Does Take Place

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America does not think statewide alcohol sales bans are a good idea.

The WSWA urged all 50 state governors not to impose any outright bans, calling instead on states to ease regulations in order to allow for curbside pickup from existing outlets. The WSWA argued that a hodgepodge of bans by some states would just send customers over state lines, which could potentially further the spread of the coronavirus. They added that an outright nationwide ban on alcohol sales could result in a long-dormant black market for liquor springing back to life.

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