Bars focusing on deliveries to keep afloat

A scene at the heart of Kuala Lumpur, which is usually bustling with activity until the wee hours of the morning. The movement control order has forced the closure of bars, pubs and clubs across the country as people remain largely indoors in an attempt to break the chain of Covid-19 infections.

PETALING JAYA: With a drop in sales of up to 85% due to the movement control order (MCO), many watering holes in the Klang Valley have no other option but to depend on deliveries to sustain their businesses.

The MCO, implemented on March 18, forced the closure of bars, pubs and clubs across the country, a shutdown which is expected to last until April 14.

Several bar owners told FMT their delivery business – selling everything from craft beer to pre-mixed cocktails – is now their bars’ only source of revenue.

“Our takeaway sales are four times the volume they were before the MCO, but there has been a definite drop in sales overall,” said the co-owner of a bar in Kuala Lumpur.

“Takeaway sales are the only option available to consumers, so I don’t think bars are going to see an overall increase in sales during this period,” she added.

Another bar owner said while most people would rather buy alcoholic drinks from supermarkets or liquor suppliers because of the more competitive prices, he provided his customers with something “a little different”.

Expanding into deliveries for the first time, Nicolas Fraile, who owns two bars in Kuala Lumpur, said supermarkets or liquor suppliers do not sell cocktails – a niche market which his bars are tapping into by selling pre-mixed cocktails which they bottle themselves and send to their customers.

“Cocktails are our know-how,” said Fraile.

“You can’t simply get them from a supermarket or a supplier. You need to go to a proper bar with a mixologist who knows how to prepare a particular concoction. I wouldn’t say it is giving us massive sales, but we are still selling,” he added.

Noting that sales were not significant enough to sustain a business, Fraile hoped to see the MCO lifted on April 14 so that companies could resume their operations.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for a craft beer specialist with four branches in the Klang Valley told FMT how a spike in online sales had resulted in them reallocating their manpower.

“Online sales was only handled by one person before, but we need three or four people every day now,” he said.

However, despite the increase in online sales, the spokesman said he could not compare sales figures now to his pre-MCO numbers.

While countries such as Canada and Australia have reported significant increases in sales of alcoholic drinks during the current Covid-19 lockdown, statistics are harder to obtain in Malaysia.

Retailers like Giant and Tesco told FMT they do not publicly disclose such data, while breweries Heineken Malaysia Bhd and Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Bhd also chose not to comment for this story.

Meanwhile, conversations with several sundry shops revealed that their sales of alcoholic drinks such as beer have remained constant.

“There has been no change,” said one shop owner who wished to remain anonymous.

“More people are staying home, but more people are also without jobs – so they won’t be drinking as much.”