Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday ordered residents to stay in their homes and announced that non-essential businesses such as liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries would close across the city starting Tuesday.
The closure will take effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday and continue through April 10. Restaurants and bars will still be able to sell alcohol, including wine, beer and cocktails, following an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis on Friday.
Restaurants and bars offering food and drinks for takeout or delivery are considered essential businesses and will remain open for those services, Hancock clarified during his press conference on Monday. Even though liquor stores remain open alongside essential businesses in other states, in Denver, they will close.
“We do not have them listed as essential,” Hancock said of liquor stores. “As much as I might think it’s essential for me, it’s not essential for everyone. … The reality is that we do not see that as an essential service.”
He told Denverites to stock up tonight on alcohol (and recreational marijuana) if they need to.
At Argonaut Wine & Liquor, 760 E. Colfax Ave., the mayor’s order created an instant rush Monday afternoon. Within 15 minutes of the press conference, a line about a block long formed outside the building, according to co-owner Josh Robinson. In order to adhere to public health guidelines around social distancing and keep people spaced out inside, staff acted like bouncers, allowing one shopper in for each person that left.
“It’s created a safety issue in the short term,” Robinson said. “The mayor said not to panic buy, but that is exactly what he encouraged people to do by shutting us down.”
Argonaut is planning to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — when the stay at home order takes hold — on Tuesday, but management will have discussions Monday night about what sort of safety protocols might need to be in place to protect customers and employees, Robinson said.
After a major shakeup to the state’s liquor sales rules a few years ago, grocery and convenience stores can now sell full-strength beer and some grocery stores now have their own attached liquor stores. Robinson questioned if those will be closed by the mayor’s order as well.
“It’s disappointing. There are all kinds of issues that arise from that,” Robison said of the order. “We sell food as well as liquor and we haven’t seen any guidance on how this is going to be carried out, so we don’t know if grocery stores that are still going to be open are going to be allowed to keep selling. It seems tough to shutdown lots of Colorado local small business people in favor of those other channels.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.