The Austin Shaker is a specialty liquor store. At its two locations around the Texas capital, customers can expect to find copper jiggers, jammy grenadine, and perfumy, highly limited liqueurs. But Kiki Litchfield, 41, who owns the store with her partner David Maguire, 42, says that in March and April, the thick glass jugs of Smirnoff and Jack Daniels were their biggest sellers. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when Texans weren’t sure how much longer their favorite booze emporiums would be open during a stay-at-home order, they regressed back to their old college favorites. There is no use for the top shelf in the age of Covid-19.

So Litchfield was relieved when the state of Texas deemed its liquor stores to be essential operations, and the Austin Shaker was allowed to serve customers — through curbside pickup and heavily masked store visits — throughout 2020. Instead of one big catastrophe, the store has navigated smaller hurdles common to the small businesses that remained open during the pandemic. For instance, Litchfield’s wholesale service has been decimated, simply because bars weren’t open to buy their product. Only now, she says, are things getting back to normal.

Litchfield and Maguire both worked as bartenders long before they managed liquor stores, and because of that, they are each still reeling from the sheer number of friends and former coworkers who’ve been laid off, furloughed, or simply haven’t been able to pick up a shift. Even as America gets back on its feet, the country has yet to fully calculate the magnitude of the economic carnage that Covid-19 has left behind. We talked about that, as well as the instructions they passed down to their employees to enforce social distancing measures, and what it was like to be caught

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