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B.C. limiting liquor sales on New Year's Eve caused 'COVID Crunch', data shows

Last Updated Jan 20, 2021 at 7:04 pm PST

(Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Closing liquor stores early on Dec. 31 created COVID Crunch says location-based digital advertising and security company

INEO says public health order forcing shops to stop liquor sales at 8 p.m. New Year's Eve creating more congestion early

B.C. forced liquor sales to end province-wide at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 in a bid to curb spread of COVID-19

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It turns out closing liquor stores early on New Year’s Eve across B.C. may have led to overcrowding and congestion at stores in the final hours.

Location-based digital advertising and security company INEO says its data shows restricting operating hours don’t cut down on the number of people who will go out to shop.

Instead, INEO says the public health order forcing shops to stop liquor sales at 8 p.m. resulted in a “COVID Crunch” — creating more congestion and overcrowding in the final hours of the shopping day.

“Public health officials in Canada have done an amazing job managing us through the COVID crisis in the face of a large number of unknowns, one of those being what happens when retail shopping hours are restricted,” said Kyle Hall, CEO of INEO.

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According to the company, almost the same number of shoppers visited liquor stores on New Year’s Eve (40,817) as Christmas Eve (42,026).

However, in the hours before the cutoff time mandated by the COVID-19 order on New Year’s, INEO notes store traffic spiked by 188 per cent.

That, the company adds, increased the challenges associated with trying to get people to physically distance themselves from others.

INEO’s data shows around 40,000 British Columbians shopped for alcohol on both nights. The difference is that stores were forced to close early on New Year’s.

And while INEO is only releasing data from these two key dates, it says the COVID Crunch effect can be seen any day that hours are restricted at stores that offer essential services.

“The same number of people are going to shop regardless, so when hours are restricted, this forces the stores to be busier than they normally would be in the hours they are open,” Hall said.

As part of the order, restaurants and other establishments were also barred from selling liquor past 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Many expressed their shock and disappointment with the move to only announced the early closures the afternoon before.