Throughout Butler County, liquor and beer have flowed off the shelves like toilet paper in supermarkets during days past.
With the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's announcement last week that Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores would close statewide on March 17, customers flooded state stores to stock up. And given Gov. Tom Wolf's announcement that all nonessential businesses should close too, beer distributors were saturated with customers.
“It was a panic,” said Sharon Snow, owner of the Rummy Mart and adjacent beer distributor in Chicora. “I've never seen anything like it.”
Even though the distributor intended to remain open, Snow said, people were buying as if it were going to immediately close.
“People were buying 14 cases at a time, and then coming back for five more,” she said.
Down in the southern tier of Butler County, the level of beer buying was also significantly raised.
“(March 16) was a crowd I've never seen before,” said Greg Harold, owner of Save on Beer Cranberry.
The line in Save on Beer stretched through the stacks of six packs and cases and snaked its way throughout the store, Harold said.
March 17 — St. Patrick's Day — had customers lining up outside before the store even opened.
Cases of beer are one thing, but state stores saw cases of wine and spirits going out the door in record fashion March 16.
In the Cranberry Mall liquor store, two lines extended from the cash registers to the rear of the store, toward their respective sides and back toward the storefront again. And the lines weren't long because customers were queued up six feet apart.
While that subsided by March 17, customers were still flowing into and out of the store at a rapid pace. An employee helped one customer to their car with three separate, full cases of whiskey. Other customers bought one or two bags' worth, but noted they were stocking up.
“It's the last day to buy,” Matt Grigsby said. “I'm going to buy some whiskey.”
Not just alcohol was leaving the shelves, though. In Chicora Snow said a small section with milk, eggs and other small necessities was out of stock or running low. Tobacco — although chewing tobacco was more popular than cigarettes — was also a hot commodity, she said.
“Some of the things we're running out of are things that we don't even have on backstock,” she said. “But if we're running out, we're going to backstock it.”
And while a beer distributor sells beer, Snow said she views it as a chance to help the community through the seemingly unprecedented events of the past few days.
“I just hope everyone knows we're in this together, that we're going to help out,” she said.