Denver mayor reverses order to close liquor stores, recreational marijuana dispensaries after crowds swarm

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Hours after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries would close across the city in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, his office reversed course, a report said.

The mayor sent a tweet at 5 p.m. Denver time saying liquor and marijuana stores in city would be open as usual, but following extreme physical distancing rules (social distancing). The new rules will continue through April 10, the Denver Post reported.

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The city defined “extreme” as six feet, or the normal amount of social distancing now recommended, the report said.

Hours earlier, he deemed liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries non-essential businesses, as opposed to grocery stores, gas stations and healthcare operations.

“We do not have them (liquor stores) listed as essential. As much as I might think it’s essential for me, it’s not essential for everyone.” 

— Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

“We do not have them listed as essential,” Hancock had said of liquor stores. “As much as I might think it’s essential for me, it’s not essential for everyone.” He suggested Denver residents buy their alcohol Monday night while they still could.

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In response to Hancock’s order, city residents swarmed neighborhood liquor stores Monday afternoon — but violated social distancing requirements while they were at it — with some stores reporting lines forming a block long just 15 minutes after the mayor’s  news conference, the Post reported.

Argonaut Wine & Liquor co-owner Josh Robinson told the newspaper his staff had to act like bouncers, allowing one shopper in for each person that left.

“It’s created a safety issue in the short term,” Robinson said. “The mayor said not to panic buy, but that is exactly what he encouraged people to do by shutting us down.”

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On Monday afternoon, bars and restaurants offering food and drinks for takeout or delivery were still considered essential businesses and will remain open for those services, Hancock clarified during the news conference.

Restaurants and bars also will still be able to sell alcohol, including wine, beer and cocktails, following an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis on Friday.

Grocery stores that either sell beer, wine, liquor or a combination thereof would be able to continue doing so while practicing extreme social distancing.



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