Amid widespread shortages of hand sanitizer and hand wipes in supermarkets and drug stores, people are turning to a makeshift substitute — Everclear, a brand of 120-proof grain alcohol that has been flying off the shelves of a BevMo in Culver City.

“Normally, we sell a few bottles of that stuff a week,” store manager Paul Pabich said. “But word is spreading fast that at 120 proof, or 60% alcohol, it can kill any germ there is out there. We had 24 bottles in stock on Monday, and they were all sold by Thursday.”

Nodding appreciatively to an empty shelf reserved for bottles of Everclear that sell for $19.99 each, he shrugged and added, “It’s the way of the world right now, and we’re making a little money from it.”

Business was also booming at the Herbarium, a marijuana dispensary in the 900 block of North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. With every purchase, the store was offering free delivery and a stylish black face mask that says, “Corona Free Herbarium.”

Breanna Lucier, 36, a spokeswoman for the business, said: “There are two reasons for all the customers you see in here right now. One is that people are stocking up on all the things they consider essential after being advised to stay indoors.

“The other reason — people don’t want to care about coronavirus or watch upsetting news about it on television,” she said. “Instead, they just want to chill out with Netflix and some weed.”

Guns were also a popular item among panic-driven shoppers on Saturday.

At Martin B. Retting Gun Shop in Culver City, a line of prospective customers stretched outside the door. Inside, they were shoulder to shoulder, waiting up to five hours for service. A fast-food truck was taking orders at the curb.

The managers of the store declined to comment. It was a rare windfall of business for the store, but some people got tired of waiting and left empty handed.

Among them was a medical doctor who would give only his first name, Ray. He said he’d come to buy his first gun.

“I want to buy a handgun, I think they call it a Glock, but I’m not sure,” he said. “I have a house and a family, and they’ll need protection if things get worse.”

“The fear,” he added, “is that civil services will break down.”

Another customer, John Gore, 39, would not argue with any of that.

“Politicians and antigun people have been telling us for the longest time that we don’t need guns,” he said. “But right now, a lot of people are truly scared, and they can make that decision themselves.”

The rush to buy guns was not unique to Culver City. Laguna Guns & Accessories in Elk Grove, where there has been community spread of the coronavirus, was also doing brisk sales.

The owner, who only identified himself as George, said he has been in business for 44 years and the last time he saw it this busy was after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when “everyone thought the government was going to take their guns away.”

George said that he has been busier than normal all week. He said he doesn’t ask why people are buying guns.

“It is what it is,” he said

He “guaranteed” the increase in gun sales was statewide.

“It’s panic,” he said.


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