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Overwhelming demand leads to halt of Lee’s online ordering

Updated May 14, 2020 - 7:40 pm

Las Vegas residents seeking to restock their liquor cabinets during the statewide COVID-19 shutdown need not venture farther than their front door.

Lee’s Discount Liquor, whose valley retail stores closed March 22, will kick off home delivery sales Saturday in the city of Las Vegas.

Orders flew in early on, causing Lee’s to pause accepting new orders Saturday afternoon, as they try to catch up on deliveries. The message alerting customers to the stop in orders was still up as of Monday afternoon.

Interested customers 21 and older can place orders by calling 702-451-0100 or visiting the chain’s website. Lee’s will verify the age by matching the identification for the person answering the door to the credit card used for the purchase.

“This morning Mr. Lee got a call from the city of Las Vegas saying they would allow delivery from our locations in the city of Las Vegas to the city of Las Vegas,” said Jim O’Connor, executive vice president of operations for Lee’s. “Prior to this we haven’t been in the delivery business, so we’re trying to walk before we run. We are taking advantage of the city’s generosity and we’re getting into the delivery business.”

Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Lee’s will offer liquor deliveries, saying the company was eligible for a temporary permit similar to those given to grocery stores delivering food.

As of Monday afternoon, Lee’s and Total Wine and More are the only two liquor stores approved to carry out home delivery service in Las Vegas, according to Jace Radke, city spokesman.

Despite the approval, Total Wine’s website still listed the Rampart Boulevard location, which the city approved for deliveries, as temporarily closed Monday.

More on the way

Other stores in the area are hoping to deliver in the coming weeks as well.

Kevork Nersessian, general manager of Liquor Emporium on North Jones Boulevard, said staff members spoke to the city of Las Vegas Friday about delivering products within city limits. He hopes they can start as soon as next week, but they’re waiting to get the go-ahead from the city.

Nersessian said the local community was “devastated” when the small mom-and-pop shop had to shutter its doors; in addition to alcohol, “a huge part” of the store’s revenue comes from basics like milk, cereal, canned food and toilet paper.

Nersessian hopes the shop will be able to deliver more than just alcohol with the city’s approval. It’s currently sitting on about 10 cases of toilet paper in its inventory, each containing about 48 rolls.

“This community desperately needs us,” he said. “They need beer and liquor, but they also need essentials.”

Nersessian has been making improvements to the store in recent weeks, taking advantage of the shutdown by painting the back room. But he said the closure has been hard on business.

“We went from getting good revenue to zero revenue,” he said. “God willing, I get (approval to deliver) in the next few days.”

Lee’s said it received dozens of orders within the first hour of accepting them on its website. With the system being new, O’Connor asked the public to bear with the company as it figures out this new avenue.

Each delivery will feature a driver and a delivery person to increase employees’ safety, O’Connor said.

Las Vegas was the first jurisdiction to allow restaurants to include alcoholic beverages in restaurant to-go orders; Clark County and Henderson followed.

City of Henderson public information officer Kathleen Richards said the city has not yet determined whether to allow home liquor delivery.

“There is no meeting to specifically address this topic,” she said. “However, the City’s policy group meets regularly and this may be a topic that is discussed in a future meeting.”

Spokespeople from Clark County did not immediately return a request for comment on home liquor deliveries.

O’Connor hopes to eventually deliver alcohol across the valley.

“We’re not trying to get in the way of the governor’s stay-at-home routine. As a matter of fact, we applaud that,” O’Connor said. “The other day I sat in our conference room and literally watched 50 cars drive up to our door, get out of their cars and get right back in them and leave. I know there’s a customer out there who wants to have a glass of wine with their dinner.

“I think what we would do by allowing us to deliver is take some heat off the grocery stores that have people going in there when they can get it some other way,” he said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Bailey Schulz contributed to this report.

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