The alcohol industry is calling for calm as bottle stores targeted by panic buying recorded an 1800 per cent spike in business yesterday ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown.
And there are warnings that liquor stores could be targeted by looters as access to spirits effectively dries up after midnight tomorrow.
The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) said the nation's bottle are being "subjected to massive panic buying" following yesterday's unprecedented announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
NZABC executive director Bridget MacDonald said one outlet reported a 10-fold increase in trade yesterday with spirits under significant demand as they would not be available in supermarkets.
"It is unprecedented," MacDonald said. "It's significantly busier than Christmas.
"We understand that consumers want to ensure they have stocks in hand for the four week isolation period, but a rush on product is not going to help anyone."
The council was now in talks with the Government about whether bottle stores could stay open during the enforced self-isolation period and over the status of online sales and home delivery.
"Government is aware that spirits and spirit-based beverages are not available in supermarkets, so we are hopeful that we will have a viable way of selling these products in lockdown. Our preference of course is for bottle stores to remain open," MacDonald said.
One bottle store chain reported an 1800 per cent spike in sales yesterday and liquor stores around the country were bracing for another rush today, she said.
Supermarkets have also seen sustained panic buying, with thousands of shoppers flooding stores to grab emergency food supplies, despite pleas from the Government to "shop normally" and promises the country will not run out food.
A strong police has been visible at some supermarkets today and shoppers face long queues.
MacDonald said shutting bottle stores would put even more pressure on supermarkets.
The move would also make the liquor stores themselves targets for theft as spirits became a sought after black market item, adversely impacting the New Zealand distilling industry.
"We are also mindful that our own homegrown spirits industry of about 100 distilleries need a way to continue to get their product to the consumer. If we can't agree on how to do this then it is likely that many will go out of business."
Meanwhile, West Auckland residents whose access to alcohol is restricted due to The Trusts' monopoly on alcohol licensing are particularly affected as liquor cannot be sold at supermarkets.
However a spokesman told Stuff some stores would remain open, meaning alcohol would still be available to West Aucklanders.
From Thursday, customers would need to phone or email their orders before heading to the store in person and showing identification, acting chief executive Matt Williams said.
Customers were encouraged not to panic buy and observe physical distancing.
The Trusts' website says it is shutting West Liquor Royal Heights, West Liquor All Seasons, West Liquor Glendene, Village Wine & Spirits Central Park, West Liquor Blockhouse Bay, West Liquor Lincoln Centre, West Liquor Valley Road, West Liquor New Lynn West, Village Wine & Spirits WestCity, West Liquor Green Bay.
"For the moment, all other retail stores are open and experiencing high demand, and we are enforcing the following:
- A maximum of three customers per store will be allowed at any one time – this will be less for smaller stores
• We will have team members out the front to help manage the flow of people in our stores
• Contactless payments have been introduced in our stores
• Our team members will use hand sanitiser after each monetary transaction, EFTPOS machines will be disinfected after each transaction
"Our aim is to continue to serve you in the safest manner possible for you and our team members. We ask that you are patient and treat our team members with kindness and respect as they work through this."