During the height of the pandemic, liquor stores were deemed essential by Minnesota state lawmakers, allowing them to remain open while other businesses had to shut their doors. For West End Liquor in Red Wing, this helped it have record sales.

“2020 was our best year in 38 years,” owners Kip and Cate Earney said. “Our sales definitely increased. People could not go to bars and restaurants [at the time], and they were going to be entertaining at home, doing projects at home and hunkering in. We were a good fit for that situation.”

West End never had to reduce hours because it was completely staffed – a feat a lot of local businesses might be envious of.

“[Our employees] dealt with people on our busiest year ever face-to-face with a mask and they handled it extremely well,” Kip said.

The only major changes the Earneys have faced so far is accommodations for social distancing and masking.

“We had to put six foot stickers on the floor so people kept their distance, we had plexiglass installed by the register, and we had everything wiped down several times a day,” Kip said. “We also did a lot more curbside and delivery [than before.]”

After 2020, liquor sales dipped, but still have remained increased when compared to a “normal” year.

“We have great employees and great customers,” Kip said. “The pandemic tested us in [different] ways but we felt we came out [on top] in the end.”

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