Islanders flock to agency stores during Saturday liquor store shutdown

All P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission (LCC) stores were closed as staff dealt with computer issues that shut down all point of sales systems.

All corporate stores across the province closed for more than six hours

Agency stores remained opened while all corporate stores were shut down Saturday afternoon. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Islanders looking for libations for their weekend plans flocked to agency liquor stores Saturday while all corporate Liquor Control Commission (LCC) stores were closed due to computer issues that shut down all point of sales systems.

At Mel's on St. Peters Road in Charlottetown, a staff member ushered in groups of people who waited in line outside in the cold early Saturday evening. The Mel's location is one of eight agency stores across the Island, which were not affected by the shutdown.

Eight agency stores across the province remained open during the shutdown. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"The lineup, traffic on both sides of the road. I was quite surprised at the crowd of people out here," said Kelly MacAulay, who stopped by Mel's to pick up some beer after hearing about the store closures.

Word spread quickly

Several Islanders said they were shocked to learn of the store closures, and were glad to have an alternative available.

"I thought the whole Island was going to go into anarchy," joked Nathan Baker. He said he was surprised by the shutdown, but he understands technology can cause problems.

"It happens in every type of business. Once the systems go down, we rely so much on that technology now that the old ways of paying cash are gone," Baker said.

Baker said when he heard about the store closures he wasn't sure if he would be able to buy any alcohol, but word spread quickly about agency stores remaining open.

"People on Facebook, social media, everyone was saying 'everybody head out to Mel's,' so I just followed everybody else's lead."

'Looking a little sparse'

As the parking lot packed with cars, with more lined up across the street, most people shopping at Mel's seemed to find the situation a bit funny. And most were just glad to get there before the store ran dry.

"I didn't think I was going to get any beer, but I did," said MacAulay. "But I think with this crowd they're going to end up running out pretty fast."

People waited in line to enter a packed store Saturday evening.

Alison Winters, who drove to a liquor store in Winsloe, and then back into Charlottetown to Mel's, was frustrated with the situation, but glad she got there when she did.

"They're getting pretty low. The wine especially is looking a little sparse. I've never seen it that low," said Winters.

Possible cyber attack

The LCC's Chief Financial Officer Carl Adams said this is the first time a shutdown like this has happened at the commission. All corporate stores closed around noon on Saturday, and and reopened after 6 p.m.

Adams said the shutdown was an automatic response by the commission's security software.

"One of our third party softwares flagged an issue and it disconnected all our lanes from the outside, which is sort of what we hope for, so that if it is an attack, and we're still sorting that out, it can't go any further," Adams said.

Adams said the commission is investigating whether there was an attack on its system, but as of Saturday afternoon, he said it was too soon to know for sure.

"This is the nature of the world that we live in today, in that everybody that is on the Internet is subject to attack. There are millions of people out there who have nothing better to do than to attack any system that they can," Adams said.