Liquor stores close during quake, will cut hours because of coronavirus

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The state-run liquor store in Murray has faced some empty shelves and long lines but staff continue to restock product on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Store hours will be limited because of the coronavirus.

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Utah liquor stores, like the customers they serve, were hit with a one-two punch.

On Wednesday morning, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake forced the closure of outlets from Logan to Draper and Heber City to Tooele, so crews could check for structural damage from the jolt and subsequent aftershocks.

Come Thursday, liquor stores statewide, including those able to reopen after the temblor, will have shorter hours, from noon to 7 p.m., due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During Wednesday’s initial quake, bottles tumbled off shelves and racks at some liquor outlets. The warehouse for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control also shut down due to shattered bottles and a broken sprinkler line.

No DABC employees were reported injured.

Agency spokesman Terry Wood said late Wednesday that damage to the stores appeared to be “minimal,” mostly busted bottles, and that structural damage was still being assessed.

Stores in Utah County, Vernal, Moab, Price, Cedar City, Hurricane and St. George remained open Wednesday.

That will change Thursday for all state-run liquor stores across Utah. Staff shortages from COVID-19 are forcing the shortened hours at state-run stores.

“No DABC employee has tested positive for the disease at this time,” Wood said in a news release. “Should a store employee test positive, that store will be shut down, employees sent home to quarantine, and the store sanitized so it can be reopened as soon as possible.”

All DABC stores are practicing “social distancing,” so the number of shoppers allowed inside and in lines will be limited.

“Customers should be aware they may be asked to remain outside briefly,” Wood said. “ … Customers are being encouraged to use credit cards for purchases and discouraged from using cash.”

Employees will be wearing sanitary gloves and sanitizing checkout areas after each transaction.

Wood said that all stores were expected to open Thursday at noon.

Wednesday night Gov. Gary Herbert signed an executive order aimed at helping restaurants return product to the DABC without restocking fees. Diners and cafes have been forced to either close up or serve only grab-and-go meals during the outbreak. And being able to get money back for unused bottles of wine or beer could be crucial.

Reporter Courtney Tanner contributed to this story.