By Adam Dorsch | Owl Magazine
Essential is defined as absolutely necessary or extremely important. So, why then, with a statewide shut down of all non-essential businesses in Maryland, are liquor stores still open? With a global pandemic plaguing our country, one thing stays the same: people need alcohol to cope.
On Monday March 23rd, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ordered that all nonessential businesses were to close at 5 p.m. or face legal action. This order was accompanied by a restriction for essential businesses to keep gatherings to a maximum of ten people or less. These orders have been put into place to help stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Essential businesses allowed to stay open during this shutdown in Maryland include healthcare facilities, grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, restaurants, pet supply stores, and veterinary hospitals just to name a few.
Many of the businesses listed as essential make sense, but one does stand out: liquor stores. What makes liquor stores essential in a time that is so focused around staying healthy and safe? After some research, it became obvious why liquor stores have been deemed essential during this pandemic.
It may seem that liquor stores stay open to prevent those suffering from alcohol addiction to flood the emergency rooms at our local hospitals. This is true to some extent but not severe enough to be the reason liquor stores have remained open.
I have consulted with a professional in the substance abuse community who provided me with some misconceptions about alcohol addiction. There are various types of drinkers that fall into the alcoholic category including binge drinkers, enhancement drinkers, coping drinkers, conforming drinkers, etc. These fall into the category of alcohol abusers who still need substance abuse treatment but not necessarily medical treatment due to being physical dependent on alcohol.
According to alcohol.org, 9% of the American population are considered “chronic/severe” alcoholics who would need medical attention if they were cut off from alcohol. This number is alarming, however there are many other ways to treat chronic alcoholics without going to the emergency room.
There are more than thirty substance abuse treatment centers in the state of Maryland that help with medically assisted alcohol withdrawal. They remain open during this pandemic and accept the same insurances that all hospitals accept. They also provide scholarships for those with low income.
Alcoholics can also contact their primary care physicians and obtain a prescription for medication to assist with alcohol withdrawal. States such as Pennsylvania and Alabama have deemed liquor stores to be non-essential and remain closed at this time. There have been no major reports on alcoholics causing stress to the hospital system in those states.
In an article published by Psychology Today titled “Why Are Liquor Stores Essential Businesses?” Peg O’Connor states that “The federal government collects roughly $1 billion from alcohol taxes each month.” With the COVID-19 virus hurting our economy with nationwide shutdowns, it just makes sense to keep liquor stores open since they bring in a lot of tax dollars on both a state and federal level.
I am the assistant general manager of Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse a liquor store in Forest Hill Maryland, and I am essential. Since the first announcement when Governor Hogan closed schools for two weeks, we have seen a huge surge in business. According to data collected by Nielsen, the nation saw a 55% spike in the sale of spirits for the week ending March 21st, 2020.
Like our local Walmart and Target, our shelves were ravaged by customers stocking up for the possibility of a complete shutdown.
I myself do not find alcohol to be essential, considering that it can actually weaken your immune system and dehydrate you. Alcohol seems like the last thing people should be worried about when our safety and health are at risk.
As of April 6, 2020, Weather.com has reported 4,045 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Maryland with 91 death—55 of the total cases in Maryland are in Harford county. This is scary to think about because just a week ago there were only 25 confirmed cases in Harford county. This means that the number of confirmed cases has grown by 220% in the last week.
In this time of uncertainty, stay home, wash your hands, love your family and close friends. Just make sure you love them from at least six feet away.