Alcohol sales boom in April, and Utah liquor stores will be open one hour earlier come June

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Kathleen Jacobson, regional manager for the DABC, at Herriman liquor store.

The coronavirus may have cut sales in restaurants, bars and other retail businesses in April — but it boosted one-month alcohol sales in Utah by almost 24%.

Sales of wine, spirits and higher-alcohol beers totaled $43.26 million last month, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reported Tuesday. That’s an increase of $8.35 million from April 2019, when purchases equaled $34.91 million.

Year-to-date liquor sales — from July 2019 through April 2020 — are $424.2 million, an uptick of 6.6% from fiscal 2018-19, DABC finance boss Man Diep told the state liquor commission Tuesday.

Th April sales figures came when liquor stores were open fewer hours. In mid-March the DABC reduced operating times at all its state-run stores because of staff shortages and to ensure proper sanitation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Director Cade Meier announced Tuesday that, beginning June 1, all stores would be open one hour earlier — from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meier said the DABC has not yet determined when stores that previously had a 10 p.m. closing time would return to those regular hours.

Despite the swelling bottom line, about 119,500 fewer bottles of alcohol were actually sold in April as bars and restaurants were closed to sit-down service to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Consumers helped temper the potential revenue losses by spending more per container. The average price per bottle sold in was $11.34, up from $8.90 for the same month last year.

Year-to-date bottle sales also have dropped 1.2 million, or 2.95%