KEY POINTS

  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took back his earlier mandate to close liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries
  • The move came as a worldwide call for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Hancock said liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries are not deemed essential as opposed to grocery stores, gasoline stations and healthcare operations

Following his earlier mandate to close liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city of Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock made a drastic move to take back his announcement.

The move by Hancock was part of a worldwide initiative to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing became the norm, as well as temporarily closing all non-essential businesses. 

Hancock sent a tweet around 5:00 p.m. and said liquor and marijuana stores in Denver would remain open provided that they will observe “extreme physical distancing.” The Denver Post, who echoed a statement from the city, described “extreme” as having six feet of space between each person, or the “normal amount of social distancing” that is being recommended. 

The National Retail Federation called for a policy on what constitutes "essential" services, saying confusion over that and other social distancing measures has contributed to panic buying The National Retail Federation called for a policy on what constitutes "essential" services, saying confusion over that and other social distancing measures has contributed to panic buying Photo: AFP / Joseph Prezioso

Prior to his sudden change of mind, the Chief Executive deemed these stores as non-essential in contrast to essential businesses like grocery stores, healthcare operations and gasoline stations. 

“We do not have them listed as essential. As much as I might think it’s essential for me, it’s not essential for everyone,” said Fox News, citing Hancock’s statement. The mayor then suggested for residents to buy alcohol late Monday while they still can. 

After his first announcement, people flocked local liquor stores and violated the social distancing etiquette. Some stores even reported forming a block long just 15 minutes after Hancock broke the news during his press conference. 

“It’s created a safety issue in the short term. The mayor said not to panic buy, but that it is exactly what he encouraged people to do by shutting us down,” Argonaut Wine & Liquor co-owner Josh Robinson told the Denver Post. 

Robinson added that his staff acted like “bouncers” that maintained order in their store by only allowing one person to enter when another was finished. 

Bars and restaurants with takeout and delivery were still considered essential business and will continue to be open to serve residents as of late Monday. Likewise, restaurants and bars are permitted to sell alcohol following an executive order from Governor Jared Polis.