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Great Falls liquor store reports increase in sales

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 11:25:23-04

People in the liquor store business say they're seeing more customers coming in to stock up for an uncertain future.

Cartwheel Casino & Liquor Store owner Joe McKenney says they’ve an increase in liquor sales since Sunday with a large increase over the past 24 hours.

The sales trend follows Thursday's emergency declaration by the City of Great Falls, banning dine-in options and large gatherings, and Friday's restrictions imposed by Governor Steve Bullock.

Yellow caution tape now separates the liquor store from the casino and the antique jukebox sits in silence.

While business on the casino side may not be booming, McKenney says they're doing their best to stay positive as state and federal leaders work through the economic impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19).

He hopes the city will resume normal operations soon as many businesses in the entertainment industry are suffering with each passing day: "The longer it is, the more devastating it is. We all hope that financially we will be able to reopen when this is over."

But the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak hasn't dampened McKennen's sense of humor - he says they wanted to lighten the mood with a fun giveaway earlier this week.



He says more than 11,000 people ended up seeing their Facebook post which challenged people to guess how many pieces of candy were in a jar on the counter. The grand prize for the person who guessed correctly: a roll of toilet paper.

And while there was a lot of interest, there could only be one winner: Matthew RaMstead picked up his padded prize and even got to keep the jar of candy.

The Cartwheel Casino & Liquor Store has changed their hours; instead of 9 a.m. to midnight, they're closing at 7 p.m. daily.



As of Friday (March 20) there are 20 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state of Montana. Yellowstone County has 5 reported cases, Missoula has 4, Gallatin has 3, Flathead County has 2, Lewis & Clark has 2; and the following counties have one each: Butte-Silver Bow, Broadwater, Roosevelt, and Madison.

As of Thursday evening, the public health lab in Helena has completed 947 tests for coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Friday morning, Governor Steve Bullock announced measures to close dine-in food service and alcoholic beverage businesses and other activities that pose enhanced health risks, effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020. The order expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27, 2020, the same day that school closures are set to expire, though the date will likely be extended.

The order states that the following places are closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

The places subject to the order are permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing. Customers may order and pay by telephone or online from a retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the State of Montana. A retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the state of Montana may deliver for sale the alcoholic beverages for which it is licensed. Delivery must be conducted by the licensee’s employees over the age of 21 and age of the purchaser and recipient must be verified at the time of delivery. The purchased alcohol must be hand-delivered to the purchaser. In offering food or beverage, a place subject to this section may permit up to five members of the public at one time inside for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least six feet apart from one another while on premises.

The restrictions imposed by this order do not apply to any of the following:

  • Establishments that offer food and beverage not for on-premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the establishments restricted above.
  • Room service in hotels.
  • Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.
  • Crisis shelters or similar institutions.
  • Airport concessionaires.
  • Military dining facilities or military food operations.
  • Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children.
  • All of the above-named facilities and establishments should adopt appropriate social distancing practices to avoid the spread of disease, to the extent practicable.

The state-wide order comes after several counties and town imposed similar restrictions earlier this week.
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