As part of a citywide order to stay at home to limit the spread of coronavirus, on March 23 Mayor Michael Hancock announced that recreational marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores would be among the businesses that must close at 5 p.m. on March 24 and remain closed for over two weeks, to discourage large gatherings of people.
So what did the people do immediately after the announcement? Gather in large groups.
Hancock's original executive order deemed that liquor stores and recreational pot shops weren't essential in the same way that grocery stores, hardware stores or medical marijuana dispensaries were. But they seemed pretty essential to panicking customers, and as the lines started forming, Hancock changed his mind...or at least clarified his order.
Because maybe opening a 24-hour window when all Denver residents would have to buy their liquor and weed for the next two and a half weeks was a bad idea.
Just hours after calling for no more liquor or retail pot sales, Denver announced that both types of business categories could remain open as long as extreme social-distancing practices were enforced; per Governor Jared Polis's March 22 order, recreational dispensaries can only serve customers via curbside pick-up for now.
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If Hancock's original order was inspired by the sight of people playing volleyball in the parks last weekend, the vision of Denverites flocking in herds like their toilet-paper-hawking ancestors to pot shops and liquor stores most have been even more horrifying. Check out some photos tweeted by participants of the madness below.
Customers flocked to a Starbuds dispensary in metro Denver.
Argonaut Liquors had hundreds of people wrapped around the block after Hancock's order on March 23.
To recap:— Cesira (@CesiraMarcella) March 23, 2020
2:05 p.m. - Mayor announces liquor stores in Denver will close Tuesday night
2:06 p.m. - People rush to buy alcohol
4:56 p.m. - City of Denver tweets out amendment to the order saying liquor stores can stay open
WHAT A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE pic.twitter.com/3KmIp3w1ob
Because of social distancing, the lines were even longer than a normal cluster, like this gathering outside of a Green Solution in downtown Denver.
Armageddon in Denver. Dispensaries shut down tomorrow at 5pm and lines are getting deep already. pic.twitter.com/9gZMFB5Baz— JP (@TrizGallo) March 23, 2020
Small liquor stores were feeling the pressure, too, which quickly spilled into their surrounding neighborhoods.
This is my local liquor store. Usually 2-3 people max. Denver just shut down all liquor and dispensaries and it is insanity. Line spanning 2 blocks. pic.twitter.com/BVap5lHoqi— Chi City Smitty (@chicityshmitty) March 23, 2020
The flood of panic buying extended into metro and suburban communities, as well, even though they were not affected by Hancock's order. Look at the line outside of Chronic Therapy, a Wheat Ridge dispensary.
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Some of these lines even led to the alleyway, the unofficial dispensaries of another time.
In between the 2pm Denver mayor announcement and the 5pm update my husband went to the dispensary. This was his view waiting in line in the alley. I’m glad they had some sense to make liquor and weed essential, we don’t need more panic right now! pic.twitter.com/x3ZTEg0QIg— Brooke Garcia (@brookyg) March 24, 2020
By the looks of it, a lot of these lines — especially those in crowded parking lots with little sidewalk support — weren't practicing social distancing very well.
People panicked and headed out to the dispensaries thinking they would all be shutdown soon just because Denver is sheltered in place. This was in federal heights, close to Denver. pic.twitter.com/rZzmFsLMFC— Pailhead (@ZombieGirI) March 24, 2020