Amid recession, Vail Valley people choose booze |

Amid recession, Vail Valley people choose booze

Dustin Racioppi,
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Unless you add “cutbacks” and “quarterly losses” to your workplace lexicon, there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as “business as usual” right now.

That is, unless you’re in the business of selling alcohol. Despite the national belt-tightening, alcohol seems to be, if not practically recession-proof, very resilient.

Try telling Avon Liquors employee Bryant Bowlby anything different and he’ll scoff at the mere thought. He sees the final numbers at the end of the night. He sees the familiar faces coming around a little more often. Alcohol sales aren’t just good, he said, they’re great.

“We’ve had one of the best summers we’ve had in a while,” said Bowlby, who’s worked at the store for three years. “It wasn’t as good on New Year’s, but Christmas, it was packed.”

It’s actually surprising to Bowlby, considering the country is flirting with historic financial trouble. That could be part of the reason sales are so good, though.

“It’s definitely one of those items that seems, when you’re depressed, that people want to buy more of. I don’t know,” Bowlby said.

He added that even though business is steady, he’s seeing different types of sales. People aren’t reaching to the top shelf so much anymore. They’re buying the “cheaper and smaller stuff,” he said, mostly beer and vodka from what he can see.

“It seems people are buying here and staying home as opposed to going out and spending money,” Bowlby said.

That’s the case for David LaGrange, a mechanic in Cordillera. Last week, he had $15 in his pocket, and instead of hitting the bar, he stretched his money at a nearby liquor store by purchasing a six-pack of Miller High Life and a pint of Seagram’s Seven.

“That lasted me two days,” he said. “Just spend your money wisely.”

Because of the economy, LaGrange has taken several cost-saving measures in his daily routine. He buys and cooks his own food, and he has stopped driving. He still goes out for drinks, though, mostly for happy hour.

Tim Jordan hits happy hour every day after work. He, too, has cut his costs, but still enjoys his daily routine at the bar for a few hours.

“If I was going to quit drinking, it would be because I wanted to, not because of the money,” the Edwards resident said. “You always find money for it.”

Spending less at the bar

But at the same time, it does seem people are spending less money when they’re out. Main Street Bar and Grill owner Nikki Heiden said while her happy hour sales are holding steady, the late-night crowd is thinning.

“That’s usually because servers and people in the industry who get out late aren’t getting as much in tips,” she said. But her 9 to 5 crowd “still come out and drink every day.”

It could also be more competition that’s hitting the ledger, Heiden said.

“Three or four years ago, when times were slow, our bar was still busy,” she said. “It’s different now. Instead of 20 bars or restaurants, there’s 30.”

It’s the same situation at the Sandbar in West Vail. Bar manager Josh Carbo thinks liquor stores being open on Sundays is also a factor in less revenue at area watering holes.

“We might have the same amount of people come in, but they’re spending less,” he said. “I can’t say if it’s the recession or what.”

Maybe Edwards resident Marty Madsen is on to something. He suspects liquor store sales would be up because people drink to numb the tough times, but they still need to get out every once in a while “just not as much.

“You can’t be sitting down at home moping around,” he said. “It’s cheaper to get a six-pack for $5.50, but people do like to get out and mingle still.”

That’s what Madsen does. And no matter what the economy dictates, that’s what LaGrange ” like many others ” will do.

“I’ll find a way to buy that six-pack,” LaGrange said.

Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or

Support Local Journalism