Local Liquor Stores Taking Extreme Measures to Keep Customers Social Distancing, Avoid Closing

If customers crowd liquor stores as time goes on, they could be forced to close.

Many people stuck at home in both Minnesota and Wisconsin are heading to liquor stores. But when those stores become crowded, business owners have to choose between serving customers, an following the law of public health by maintaining social distance.

One sign in front of Shanty Bottle Shop in Duluth’s Hillside neighborhood says it best:

“Do not rush into the store as if everything is normal. It’s not.”

“Because they’re not. They’re difficult times. Difficult, struggling times,” said store manager Beau Batlock.

That sign is one of many taped on a Bobcat Skid-Steer Loader greeting customers as they walk to the door.

“A lot of people like to linger around the store, right in the front and we want to get in, and get out. Y’know, get the product and go home,” said Batlock.

Now only three customers can be in the store at a time, and just Monday night a plexiglass barrier was installed around the desk.

“I’m calling it the penalty box. I now work in a penalty box,” Batlock said.

There could be a harsher penalty if customers don’t comply: locking the doors.

“We’re not afraid to do that, we don’t want to do that, but I believe that if these weren’t put in place and done right, we’d be forced to shut down,” said the store manager.

“And that’s not what we want.”

Duluth Police have said that they have not received many complaints about large gatherings at businesses in the city. “It seems like Duluthians are very conscientious of trying their best to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order,” Public Information Officer Ingrid Hornibrook said.

The few concerns they have received regard social distancing in outdoor places. Hornibrook said if you notice people not abiding by guidelines anywhere, to report to the state rather than the Police Department. You can do so by calling (651) 793-3746, or emailing SAHviolation@state.mn.us.

Meanwhile across the bridge, Keyport Liquor Store in Superior is also taking measures. “We’re placing tape on the floor right now, six feet apart,” said store manager Nick Casper, “we do have signs coming.”

While Casper said they are steadily busy now, if the crowds grow they have a more extreme plan.

“We wouldn’t have to close,” he said. “What we would have to do is maintain the number of customers that are shopping in the store at any time, and we an do that currently if we need to. We can slow down traffic as needed.”

John Walsburg appreciates the concern as a customer. “It’s nice to see, people taking it seriously and all.”

Especially since when he does venture out, it’s from his job working in an already high-risk setting–a group home.

“Y’know, we kind of lack a little guidance from every level of government so it’s nice to see the private sector is doing their own thing,” he said.

As the private sector does what they can with new rules, strongly worded signs, and adjustments to lines at the counter–the authorities’ main response is education.

“Out in public places, while we’re not necessarily looking or searching for people who are not complying, if we see a group of people in a public setting we’ll just use education to gain voluntary compliance,” Hornibrook said.

And all liquor store employees and customers can do is strongly urge others to keep six feet away, so everyone can utilize the essential business.

“Take it serious,” said Shanty store manager Batlock. “Be respectful not only to the employees, other customers, keep your distance and go on your merry way.”

The common word describing the situation: serious.

“Everyone needs to take it more seriously,” Walsburg said. “Go out when you need to, obviously, if you’re running out of supplies get them. But then if you don;t need something right now, stay at home.”

“We’re all one big team right now,” he said.

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