Why are liquor stores essential?


To the Editor:

I just found out that liquor stores are open to the public. I called three to double check because it didn’t make sense to me.

You can’t buy a pair of socks but you can buy a bottle of gin. Come on! The first one I called said curbside only — I get that. The next two said the store was open to the public. I’m not saying liquor stores should be penalized but — either essential only — or all small businesses should be able to remain open with social distancing and masks worn. Who decides?

Rosemary van Nes
West Tisbury


  1. Liquor stores are essential to keep alcoholics away from the hospital. If you drink all day, stopping cold turkey can lead to seizures and death.

    • Liquor stores are not considered essential out of concern for alcoholics, unless you consider all daily drinkers alcoholic. (They might be, I don’t know.) LIquor stores are considered essential because most people like to have a drink most every day or have a glass of wine with dinner. These are not people who would need hospitalization if they spent a day without drinking, but for sure, they’d be in a bad mood.

  2. During my lifetime, being in the liquor business has always been the safest and surest way to maintain financial security, no matter what… the worse things are, either personally or nationally, the better business is for liquor stores. I don’t recall shortages or worries about working conditions for production, the way we hear now for some foods. Some people would rather drink than eat, and some do not enjoy their food unless they can drink. I knew people who’d stock up (hoard) every Saturday for the week when blue laws were still in effect and liquor stores were closed on Sundays. The fear of being without alchohol for even one day for many is frightening. People walk out of Chilmark restaurants when they find out they can’t order a drink. For many, alcohol is as essential as air. They cannot imagine sitting down to a meal without wine or a drink beforehand. Drinkers and drinkers’ friends have decided that liquor stores are essential, and most people are drinkers.

  3. Given that the liquor stores have been open during the 6 weeks of lock down and we have not had a runaway spread, maybe your argument could be that we could use their protocols to open up other retail stores safely soon. Then you could buy gin and socks!

    • T2– alcohol is a disinfectant, is it not ?
      Could it be that people with not enough blood in their alcohol system are immune from the virus ?
      We should have the doctors look into that.
      Certainly, your anecdotal observation is worth looking into. Probably better than huffing Lysol.
      ( disclaimer– under no circumstances should anyone drink, breathe or “huff” ANY disinfectant )

    • Agreed, gutsy. They’re necessary for the reason already mentioned. Addicts cannot be cut off suddenly from alcohol. I don’t see why these stores are open for anything more than delivery, though. It’s far from essential that people stand around mulling over the rosé selection.

  4. Rosemary–Alcohol may not be “essential” for most people , but it sure is nice to have a glass of wine with dinner during these times.
    And one could certainly argue that there is nothing “essential” in a hardware store.
    I guess it depends on what “essential” means.

  5. If we cared so much about addicts, we’d have essential heroin stores, too, instead of all the overdose deaths. Is our society really admitting that alcoholism rules here? I think it’s more about money and that people would revolt if they didn’t get their fix, even without having physical dependency. Look at how the construction bullies got their way, and immediately ignored safety guidelines. BS’s link is about the science behind why alcohol access is essential for those addicted. Is the whole country addicted to alcohol?

    • Jackie, I totally agree with you that liquor stores are always in demand and that the public would be outraged, which probably influenced the decision to leave them open. Still, alcohol is (along with benzos) one of the most dangerous substances to stop cold turkey. You can die while withdrawing. If those with a physical dependency were cut off, some would end up in ERs. That could lead to another hardship for hospitals, which would undermine the plan to flatten the curve. For that reason, it works in everyone’s favor to keep the supply available, even if those making the decisions have other motives that are less altruistic. Again, I don’t think this means they have to let customers through the door. Just that delivery should be an option to prevent further problems.

      • Everything you say is true. I just don’t think that it’s compassion for alcoholics that’s keeping the stores open. Completely agree it should be delivery/curbside pickup only.

        • I agree, it probably isn’t a matter of compassion. In my opinion, the US often caters to drinking. I’m in the minority that finds our drinking and driving laws, not to mention their enforcement, disgusting lax.

          • It more than caters to it. Where else but in America would we make “drinking movies” like Animal House and Beer Fest and promote frat parties and beer pong and underage drinking parties if the parents chaperone? I find the part of American culture that encourages drunkenness disgusting, like it’s a rite of passage, and I feel for the many who can’t handle it. Teaching responsible drinking is not part of our culture.

          • I feel the same. Being so pro-alcohol and embracing drug culture has caused countless problems. While I understand the connection between substances and trauma/the need to escape for some, I’ve never seen the recreational allure of drugs and alcohol. Just not for me. I respect that every adult has the right to choose whether or not to drink, long as it doesn’t lead to anyone else being harmed in the process. Too bad it often does cause harm, and society accepts much of it as normal.

  6. I don’t know what’s more disturbing , you finding out a month after it was considered essential or you not owning more than 2 or 3 pairs of socks?

    • It’s disturbing that anyone thinks it’s normal that people all follow where and how to get alcohol. News flash: a lot of people didn’t know because they don’t care. What you find disturbing is like being disturbed that not all people are binging on TV to get through this time, instead of finding it disturbing that people can’t live life without TV.

  7. Jackie, you do live a sheltered life, don’t you? Yes, the island has a large issue with alcohol, amazing that you did not notice. Ask anyone at a self-help program, I am sure you will have an eye-opening conversation.
    Also is it right to demean people that want to feed their families to go back to work?
    “Look how the construction bullies got their way and immediately ignored safety guidelines”
    How do you know that? Just because you did not assert your will and make everyone stay home forever?
    Keep us informed the next time you visit a job site, I for one am interested in what you find.

    • I have already stated many times that there are compliant construction workers. It only take one who is not. And I will also repeat for you what I’ve said often— everyone would like to get back to work. Tradespeople are not any more anxious to feed their families than the millions of others who are without income. I’m sorry you find it so difficult to read with comprehension.

      • Jackie, the hatred you spew is far more dangerous the the virus. We get it. You don’t want any scruffy working class people coming to the island. Just hunker down in your house and let these workers, who work twice as hard as you and are twice as smart come back to rescue us from economic disaster. We should be greeting them with the same signs as are posted at the hospital.

        • Jeez I don’t read hatred. I don’t see any of this as racist or classist at all. Let’s just nudge this direction towards common sense.maybe after 7 days of no new cases we allow businesses to open with mandatory masking.No mask, no entry.Lets just breathe some sanity into the discussion and fart out the angry rhetoric.

      • Unfortunately, restaurant workers, retail store owners, Flying Horses personnel, etc ad nauseum, are really just NOT important right now. I know all those people want to feed their families too, but it’s not safe. Do you want your stupid job selling MV sweatshirts and Jaws tshirts, or do you want to live? There are just too many things that could go wrong in retail or food. MY brothers and son are landscapers, and not exactly thrilled to be back at work, Jackie. They were making waaaay more on unemployment! But SOMEONE has to mow the Obama’s lawn. And repair the shingles. This is going to get way worse before it gets better. Count your blessings that you are healthy. A friend of mine died at only 52. Rich, famous, talented…none of that mattered. Things don’t matterand . However, i’m not completely insane. I think we should be IDing people at the boat, and if they don’t have a local address listed on their license…have a nice hot summer in Manhattan. We just cannot afford to have the extra traffic, illness, and PEOPLE to provide for on this tiny island. There is nothing to do anyway. i’m trying to imagine Beach Rd empty of cars in July! And thank little baby Jesus the liquor stores are open. 🙂

  8. Liquor stores are essential because the Vineyard is a resort island with a drinking problem.
    Or is it a drinking island with a resort problem?
    I can usually figure it out after a few drinks.

  9. Liquor stores also sell other things. If keeping them open prevents a trip to the crowded supermarket that’s a win.

    Also, when you ban a vice you only encourage a black market. The last thing we needs is people peddling booze on the DL.

  10. I can’t believe no one has come to the conclusion as to why the liquor are essential?
    They are essential to the Commonwealth. Do you know how much the state collects in taxes on a bottle of booze, a pack of cigarettes or a case of wine? Plenty. Keeping the trough full for the pigs in Boston is essential!

    • Charlie U – if you don’t drink or smoke, why do you care? or if you do drink and or smoke…stop and then you won’t be contributing the “pigs in Boston”.

    • I believe Charlie U is referring to what are know as “sin taxes”, those on liquor and tobacco. They are important fuel for the engine of government. As the efficiency of the engine declines new sources are always needed. Anybody remember the (then) moral controversy over government involvement in gambling?

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