State House aims at decriminalizing out-of-state liquor purchases

Shoppers file out of the Total Wine and More store in Claymont, Del. in this file photo.

CLAYMONT, Del. — Business appears to be booming at the Total Wine in Claymont. 

Delco residents don't seem to mind making the trip on I-95, since they have no other choice.

While beer distributors remain open in Pennsylvania, superstores such as Total Wine are among the state's businesses considered non-life-sustaining by Gov. Tom Wolfe last month. Beer distributors in Pennsylvania remain open because the stores offer a wide array of non-alcoholic beverages, as well as snacks and lottery tickets.

All Pennsylvania-based Wine & Spirits were closed indefinitely March 17.

This reality is causing more Delco residents to make the trek across state lines.

Total Wine & More was busy Monday afternoon. A store manager declined to answer if the store has experienced an increase in sales over the last few weeks, and directed all questions to the corporate office.

"Look at the license plates in the parking lot," the manager said.

There were many Pennsylvania plates in the parking lot Monday, but that could be norm. Total Wine & More is a stone's throw across the Pennsylvania-Delaware border on Naamans Road.

One Chester resident made a quick stop on his lunch break. He was there to buy a bottle of his mother-in-law's favorite wine.

"I work five minutes away, so it's easy for me to make a run," he said. "I do what I'm told."

Will he come back anytime soon, and does he worry about risking his health over a bottle of wine?

"Maybe," he said, noting that he drinks beer, "and you can buy that anywhere."

Julius, of West Philadelphia, was in town to visit family members. He was on his way home when he thought it would be best to make a pit stop at Total Wine & More.

"I come here a lot," he said. "It's crowded, like, most of the time I come here and I don't notice a difference, to be honest. You just want to stay away from people and not get sick. You see people coughing sometimes, and you don't want to go anywhere near them."

The stay-at-home directive doesn't seem to apply to the avid wine or spirits drinker.

 The store was crowded, with no visible evidence of social distancing being practiced by its customers or staff. Many customers standing alongside their shopping carts did not adhere to the 6-feet-apart rule. 

That didn't stop customers from taking added precautions. Many were wearing masks and gloves. One elderly man donned a Phillies bandana across his face.

One customer, who made the fast commute from Chichester, carried travel-size bottles of Purell hand sanitizer, lathering up his hands and face before entering the store.

"Have to be safe," said the man, who was stocking up on bottles of Jim Beam. He declined to give his name for this story.

"I have boxes of wine in the trunk," he said, pointing to his gunmetal grey Kia crossover.

"You have to kill the time somehow."

Travel restrictions in and out of Delaware were announced Monday, but shouldn't impact Delco drivers so long as they don't plan to stick around. 

Gov. John Carney ordered all out-of-state residents traveling into Delaware to self-quarantine for 14 days to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

The 14-day period is measured from the time of entry into Delaware or for the duration of the individual's presence in Delaware, whichever is shorter, according to a press release on the state website.

A total of 45 people are reported to be hospitalized across the state due to the coronavirus.

 Carney warned that Delaware, which had one of the lowest numbers of coronavirus cases in the country, is only "getting worse," he said in an interview with WDEL radio.

"We're about to experience an acceleration in the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations," Carney told the radio station. "We're going to see a big surge in the next two or three weeks, and we ought to be prepared for it. People need to understand that they need to follow the rules in order to limit that surge."

Delco's wine lovers can rejoice. If you're just stopping through to stock up, you should be OK. For now.

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