Albertans have been encouraged to stay at home the past few months to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And they did – likely with a can of beer or a joint in their hand.
On Friday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis agency has reported sharp increases in the sales of alcohol and cannabis since public health measures were put in place.
“What we’ve seen through survey data is Canadians indicating that many (alcohol users) had been drinking more frequently during the pandemic, and with sales numbers from AGLC indicating increases in sales during the last few months during the shutdown,” she said Monday.
On Tuesday, AGLC spokesperson Heather Holmen said the agency doesn’t know if there is a correlation between consumption and the pandemic, as this is the time of the year where there is generally an increase in sales due to the warmer weather.
“That said, I can’t rule it out either, but without audited data, we don’t have the full insight.”
Sales at Ace Liquor in Red Deer have been slightly higher compared to last year, said store manager Navtej Singh.
That could be due to the lockdown since March, he said.
“It did effect sales a little bit,” he said.
There were a few days in March when people were panic buying at Ace, to stock up in case everything shut down, just as some people were doing with toilet paper, he said.
Sales in March were a mix of everything – from spirits, to wine and beer.
Panic buying is something even Kevin Wood, owner at Drummond Brewing Company noticed for a portion of March.
“We definitely saw a surge in beer sales, and people were also panic buying at the beginning of the pandemic, and then there was consistent sales throughout,” said Wood, adding he saw a lot of “bulk buying” happen.
“Because people were just at home drinking beer. I would say there was a fair amount of consumption,” he said, adding sales are now back to normal.
Red Deer’s River Cannabis co-owner John leVann said he saw an increase in sales in March, April and most of May.
Numbers were roughly about 10 per cent lower at the end of May and so far in June.
Seeing that trend, leVann said he believes the increase in sales was due to people having more time on their hands while the stringent restrictions were in place.
Numbers dropped when Red Deerians started going back to work, he said.
Other reasons for the increase, he believes, is due to the assistance from the government and reduced hours at some cannabis retailers.
Lacombe’s Merry Guana co-owner Matt Panelli said there’s an increase in the sales of cannabis – some of it explained by the excess time that people have on their hands, but most of it attrributed to wariness of the black market.
With the virus, people are wanting to be safer, and purchase clean product by going to a store, instead of trying to buy from an illegal seller, which may involve going to someone’s home or meeting a person in a parking lot, he explained.
“I would estimate the cannabis industry is probably up 30 per cent across the board,” he said.
Troubled Monk Brewery and Tap Room sales manager Bud Kelly said Tuesday, with the ongoing pandemic, the number of people coming in to buy canned beer has increased.
But with the shutdown of restaurants and bars – keg sales dropped.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a huge spike by any means,” said Kelly.
“I would say alcohol sales from retail premises and liquor stores did spike, but to make up for that, from an Alberta brewery standpoint, there were no keg sales, and there’s a lot more beer in a keg than there is in a can, so that makes it a little bit more balanced,” Kelly said.
What changed during the pandemic is the way people got their alcohol. Kelly said delivery service is something Troubled Monk will continue to offer.
“People like the convenience of having that service,” he said.