Limited parking. Empty shelves. Long checkout lines.
That’s what Dailene Christensen dodged by shopping at a Salt Lake City wine store Tuesday.
“We wanted to avoid coming in tomorrow,” said Christensen, who knows the day before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest day of the year at Utah’s 45 state-run liquor stores.
“Of course, we have to go grocery shopping, too,” said her daughter Deri Trinnaman, “and there will probably be lines there.”
“Priorities,” Christensen joked. “You gotta get the wine first.”
Sales numbers from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control show consumers like Christensen have been shopping early to avoid the crowds, said spokesman Terry Wood.
Liquor sales on Monday totaled $1.5 million, about 4.8 percent higher than the same day last year, he said. And alcohol sales eclipsed $2.1 million on both Friday and Saturday, an increase of more than 2 percent from those same days in 2017.
Wednesday, however, still is expected to be among the biggest liquor sales day of the year, Wood said, as consumers stock up on beer, wine and spirits for the national holiday dedicated to food.
Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, Utah sold $3.4 million in alcohol, setting a record for that day, though it fell short of the all-time single-day record set Dec. 23, 2016.
It’s not just dollar amounts that go up, Wood said; so does the number of bottles sold.
Last year, more than 347,000 bottles of wine, high-alcohol beer and spirits were sold the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, up from 342,000 in 2016. On a typical Wednesday, state liquor stores sell 104,387 bottles of booze.
Michael Hoffman has made the mistake of shopping for wine on the day before Thanksgiving and has vowed never to do it again. “I don’t like to wait in the lines,” he said Tuesday, “and the store is often out of what I want.”
For those who have suggestions, complaints or compliments about their liquor-buying experience, the DABC has a new survey tool on its website that allows customers to comment on service, product selection, availability and their overall liquor-shopping experience.
Patrons also can take the survey by using a cellphone to scan in the QR code at the bottom their receipt.
“We are trying to better understand what is going on in the stores,” said DABC Deputy Director Cade Meier. “It’s a great way to hear from people, analyze their concerns and address the issues if we can.”
Meier said the DABC plans to track the survey responses and use the data to better focus the department’s limited resources. “Hopefully, we will be able to address concerns,” he said, “and learn from the feedback we are getting.”
Even though she shopped early, Salt Lake City resident Jennifer Fegley said she doesn’t mind long lines at the liquor store. “It makes me happy to see people enjoying adult beverages in a nanny state,” she said, adding, “I just wish [the DABC] would be smarter with our tax dollars."
That may be a comment for the survey.