Coronavirus has booze business booming in New Hampshire

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 3:26 PM EDT
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As nonessential stores across the region remain closed due to the ongoing pandemic, there is at least one industry in New Hampshire where business is booming.

"I would say it is essential in these hard times," said Lucy Hemenway of Strafford, Vermont.

Hemenway was hitting up the New Hampshire Liquor Outlet in West Lebanon for some wine. She says she has been buying in bulk lately.

"Because I don't want to make as many trips here as necessary," Hemenway said.

Alcohol sales in the Granite State are up 17% compared to this time last year, which, according to a Liquor Commission spokesperson, is partially due to shoppers stocking up during these uncertain times.

"The alcohol is good for the moment at least to overcome the fear. People are terrified, in my opinion," said Richard Hervey of White River Junction.

Last year, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission did more than $706 million in sales. About 20% of that money, roughly $146 million, goes to the state's general fund to support essential state programs like education, health, transportation and social services.

But why is booze deemed essential? We posed that question to the commission spokesperson but were directed to Gov. Chris Sununu's executive order that simply lists alcohol under food and agriculture.

"I'm not saying people shouldn't buy it but it is not an essential item," Hervey said.

Others disagree, while at that the same time articulating what could be a problematic trend.

"Honestly, I think some people should be concerned, because when you get bored, what else do you do? Just sit around and drink," said Michael Despres of Lebanon.

Though, this Granite Stater says alcohol is essential for many.

"I think it is a necessity for people who will actually detox. You'd be surprised how many people are actually alcoholics," Despres said.

Some of the smaller liquor stores across New Hampshire have closed due to a lack of staffing. However, employees at others have received a 10% pay increase as they continue to work through the ongoing pandemic.

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