Alcohol Sales are Up Nationwide, But Brooklyn Shops Still Struggle

Alcohol Sales are Up Nationwide, But Brooklyn Shops Still Struggle
Shelves are full at Vin de Table. Courtesy of Freddy Saint-Aignan.

Around the country, alcohol sales are going up. The New York Post reported a 55% increase at the end of March, citing increases in both liquor and wine and beer sales. Despite this increase, and the recently re-upped warnings from health officials to watch our drinking levels, several Brooklyn stores say that sales aren’t what they once were.

Owen Wright, the co-owner and co-founder of Wright and Goebel in Boerum Hill, says that the shop is down between 20-30% in sales from last year.

“People are drinking more, they’re just not drinking more here. I think people in the Hamptons are drinking more, people in Connecticut are drinking more. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of our customers went to summer houses, went to their parent’s houses,” Wright said, adding that his business caters to a more high-end clientele that enjoys organic and specialty products. According to Wright, their distributors have also reported a more city-wide decrease in sales.

Amy Bennett, the owner and founder of The Greene Grape grocery store and wine store in Fort Greene, agrees that sales have flattened a bit.

“Liquor stores are counter-cyclical to restaurants,” she said. “[People] either go out or they stay home, but they drink about the same. A lot of people are saying, ‘oh people are stressed, they’re drinking more’, and I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I think it just shifted.”

When the pandemic first hit, both Wright and Goebel and Greene Grape noticed an uptick in sales for the first few weeks, that faded as things became more serious and restaurants began to reopen.

“We had a huge spike in sales just before, to the point where we had trouble getting inventory even from our suppliers. Everyone was running out,” Wright said.

Vin de Table, another wine shop in Bed-Stuy, told Bklyner that their sales were doing fairly well, and that they didn’t need to apply for any loans during the pandemic, but that they had also lost some of their customer base due to unemployment in the restaurant industry.

Bennett said that the uptick in online orders for both the wine and grocery store went from 12 online orders a week to 500 in the beginning.

“I could not be prouder of how my staff just turned on a dime, adapted, and got all that stuff done. It’s like creating a new business overnight Iron Chef style where you’re given the new business plan the night before. This was something that was going to take a year to sort or work on,” Bennett said.

Despite these downturns, business is still relatively reliable, Wright said.

“The flip side of it is that the wine business is a very stable business,” he added. “That baseline is always there.”

Wright and Goebel is located at 346 Livingston Street, between Nevins Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Greene Grape is located at 756 Fulton Street, between South Portland Avenue and South Oxford Street.

Vin de Table is located at 354 Throop Avenue, between Kosciuszko Street and Dekalb Avenue.