In a time of uncertainty and confusion people in Monticello and Big Lake have found security in the local liquor stores.

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking over, business have been temporarily closing left and right. Liquor stores on the other hand, won’t be going away anytime soon.

Liquor stores have been deemed as essential and may remain open to the public.

As a result, the Monticello and Big Lake liquor stores have been experiencing booming business.

Hi-Way Liquors manager Randall Johnsen said everything in regards to sales was normal until it wasn’t.

Up until about 3 p.m. on Monday, March 16, when the governor declared he was closing bars and restaurants, sales were on par with our regular numbers. 

“Immediately following that, the parking lot filled and did not slow for two days,” Johnsen said.

Sales those two days were an increase of 69 percent over normal sales. 

“Business eased a bit mid-week, but Friday’s governor’s press conference, again, created a surge that resulted in one of the biggest days in Hi-Way’s history,” Johnsen said.

The week prior to the announcement, 3,531 customers were counted. This past week 5,108 costumers were counted – a 31 percent spike in customer transactions.

There were several reports of costumers leaving the liquor store with carts filled to the brim.

As of now the Monticello liquor stores will remain open, but the hours now read 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Hi-Way Liquors will still be accepting cash and credit cards at the register. Clerks are given gloves to wear and encouraged to wash their hands as much as possible.

Along with that, Hi-Way Liquors is routinely spraying disinfectant on shopping carts, baskets, door knobs, register keyboards, credit cards machines, as well as all hard surfaces.

“We have always prided ourselves in having a clean store for costumers to shop in,” Johnsen said.

Big Lake’s Liquor store Lake Liquors, located on Rose Drive has seen sales spike as well, but it may have begun earlier than last week.

Greg Zurbey, the manager of Lake Liquors was proud to report that his sales started improving in January.

“Our January and February numbers were up by 12 percent in comparison to last year,” Zurbey said. “Year to date our sales are up about 17 percent, our customer count is up by about 11 percent and in the month of March so far our sales are up 32 percent and our customer count is up about 13 percent.”

Lake Liquors started a loyalty club this year – every dollar you spend earns you one point, once you earn 500 points you receive 10 dollars off your next purchase – that has certainly had a hand in sales spiking. They’ve also lowered pricing on certain beers to attract and retain customers.

“Last week we saw a lot of the panic buying where people were stocking up,” Zurbey said. “We saw a lot more boxes buying purchased rather than just our usual bottle buying.”

While he uses the term “panic buying” there wasn’t been much chaos in the store.

“People’s attitude in our store has been very positive,” Zurbey said. “We haven’t had pushing, we haven’t had shoving, we haven’t had overcrowding. He have what people are looking for and they’re buying alcohol so that tends to be fun too. People are being very patient and pleasant.”

Lake Liquors hours are now 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday as of now.

As for keeping things sanitary, the store is on it.

“We’re disinfecting every door handle, every light switch, clerks are constantly cleaning their work space, anything customers are touching we’re wiping down, and we’re just trying to be smart,” Zurbey said.

Lake Liquors will only be taking credit cards and not accepting cash during this time to decrease the spread of germs. 

Reach Jessie Meyen at


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