The drive-thru comes to you: how The Barn is adapting to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Barn Spirits & Liquor is now delivering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1994, customers at The Barn in Stillwater have been buying beer and wine in a unique way. To make a purchase, people literally drive through a big red building on Washington Street and check out without ever exiting their vehicle. 

But with the COVID-19 pandemic rising, things have to evolve. Now, The Barn is driving their cars to you. 

On March 24, the Oklahoma alcoholic beverage laws enforcement commission announced that alcoholic beverages could now be delivered to people 21 and over until April 17. For a business that runs on customer convenience, manager Travis Smith knew this would be perfect for the shop.

“ABLE commission released a statement saying that we were allowed to deliver, and at that point I thought it would be a great way to turn the community,” Smith said of Oklahoma’s Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement group. 

The addition of delivery adds to the accessibility of The Barn. Stillwater residents can still go to the drive-thru or call 405-377-WINE (9463) to have Smith deliver alcohol or other goods to them personally.

Despite only doing deliveries for a few days, Smith says he’s already met many great people -- all while keeping social distance.

“Yesterday I was able to deliver to a lady who is starting (chemotherapy),” Smith said. “She was a really nice lady. I didn’t really get to talk to her much because we had to social distance, and it’s not just alcohol we deliver; it’s general convenience store items, too.”

These general convenience store items include chips, candy, pop, juice and most other things one could find at a convenience store. With people flocking to grocery stores, these delivery convenience items could be a life saver to people most vulnerable to the virus. 

And vulnerable populations are important to Smith.

“My parents are both elderly, so I worry a lot about (COVID-19) in general,” he said.

In fact, Smith had to forgo his original plans for a delivery driver to help protect someone who falls in this category: his 72-year-old father and Barn co-owner, Calvin. Initially, the plan was to have Calvin do the delivery runs and convey a positive message with his friendly face.

Unfortunately, Calvin wasn’t able to do his thing for long. 

In accordance with Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt’s “safer-at-home” order, which requests that the most vulnerable people to the virus stay sheltered at home, Calvin had to end his one-day stint as a delivery driver. Travis said despite this change of plans, Calvin is bringing his strong work ethic to the yard at home.

“(Calvin) is at home right now, and he’s out spraying the yard for weeds," Travis said. "He’s crazy, I could say that.”

The measures Smith has taken during this pandemic are both lifesaving and convenient to customers. The way The Barn and other small businesses in Stillwater have adapted to COVID-19 has received praise by many local leaders, including Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce. 

“I’ve been really encouraged to see the adaptability of some of our businesses and our economy overall,” Joyce said. “To continue to serve in the current situation, I think it’s a good thing.

“I know the state ABLE commission relaxed some rules to allow for delivery of alcohol and that sort of thing. So I’m glad to see that some of those changes have been made to allow for some of that adaptability. I would expect nothing less from businesses and entrepreneurs in our area and around the country to find ways and help deal with the changing circumstances right now and to serve their customers however they can.”