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For Californians, a Glassful of Wine Helps Election Night Go Down

Pacific Standard finds a calm scene at the local liquor stores, even as cashiers say there’s been an increase in sales.

By Francie Diep


(Photo: Evan Wood/Flickr)

If a quick poll of local alcohol-selling stores is any indication, Santa Barbara, California, may be a bit tipsier than usual tonight.

“We’ve been selling quite a bit of alcohol today, definitely,” says Mark Wood, a crew member at one of the generally sleepy beach town’s two Trader Joe’s markets. In the wine aisles, Pacific Standard found a young woman wearing an “I voted” sticker on her gray T-shirt. She had come with her husband to buy snacks and a cheap bottle of pinot noir. “It was definitely with the intention of — we have to — well, we don’t have to, but we can’t stop ourselves from watching the news,” she says.

Like other stores Pacific Standard visited, Trader Joe’s sales figures don’t indicate that it has sold significantly more alcohol in recent weeks, but cashiers all felt they were seeing an uptick today. “I just got here, but I’ve already got a couple of people saying, ‘Oh, my candidate’s winning, so I’m drinking,’” says Lucas Strand, a cashier at BevMo!. Around the time of our expedition, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia had been called for Donald Trump. Two customers at BevMo! feigned political neutrality, claiming they were only there for the $10-off-for-every-$50-you-spend sale.

At Presidio Market, a deli featuring a row of bins of mini-liquor bottles lining the checkout counter, cashier Rosa Quintero says some customers had come to buy wine to celebrate having cast their vote. “They came in with pizza from Ca’Dario,” she says, in reference to an upscale pizza shop across the street. Employees of San Roque Market & Liquor say business has been slow. One San Roque customer buying a 12-pack of beer said he was not inspired by the contentious presidential race. He was “just a Tecate guy.”

Perhaps Pacific Standard just missed the rush. Damien Gilbert, another Trader Joe’s crew member, says he’s noticed plenty of tension among customers in recent weeks, citing a tiff at his cash register when one customer said she was excited about the prospect of America’s first female president and someone else in line disagreed. “Everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, I gotta get my alcohol,’” Gilbert says. “It’s drama, big time.”