Pennsylvania liquor stores bring back workers to fulfill online orders

Pennsylvania liquor stores bring back workers to fulfill online ordersA pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store March 18, 2020, in Upper Darby, Pa. Pennsylvania has shut down all of its roughly 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Matt Slocum / AP Photo

(The Center Square) — State officials said Thursday they reopened another 46 liquor stores to keep up with booming online sales amid the coronavirus shut down.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said the Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores – 49 in total – remain closed to the public and instead use staff to help fulfill more than 23,000 orders, which have grossed $2.1 million since April 1. 

For context, the PLCB says, last year’s 39,000 sales totaled $5 million. PLCB Board Chairman Tim Holden said the state has made “significant progress” ramping up its capabilities and improving service. The website randomizes access to prevent traffic overload and order abuse and limits transactions to one per customer.

“Today, we’re accepting 6,500 orders through our website, an 850 percent increase since April 1, when limited e-commerce sales resumed, and a 261 percent increase over the 1,800 orders we had been consistently accepting each day for a number of days,” he said.

The PLCB hopes to increase daily orders to 10,000 “in the coming days,” according to a PLCB news release.

“While consumer interest and site traffic continue to outpace our ability to process orders, we ask consumers’ patience as we explore options to serve our customers while honoring public health guidance during this unprecedented disruption,” Holden said. “We believe that continuing to expand access to in a controlled manner will allow us to provide access to consumers while also protecting our employees and consumers from unnecessary risk, but we acknowledge our website can’t handle the daily volume our network of nearly 600 stores supported.”

Gov. Tom Wolf shuttered the state’s 600 liquor stores on March 17 as the pandemic worsened. As of Thursday, the Department of Health has confirmed more than 27,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 700 deaths.

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