ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It's Cinco de Mayo, one of the biggest days for beer sales here in the U.S., right up there with the Super Bowl. While U.S. consumers can still find Mexico's finest brews on the shelves, stores south of the border are nearly out. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Cinco de Mayo isn't as big a holiday here as it's become in the U.S., except in Puebla where a small Mexican force beat back French invaders in 1862. Normally, parades celebrate the victory.
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KAHN: But festivities were called off this year because of the coronavirus lockdown. And it appears even beer has been canceled, too. Nearly all Mexican beer production shut down weeks ago, when Mexican officials deemed the industry nonessential.
ESTEBAN ROJAS CORDOBA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: Of course it's essential, laughs Esteban Rojas Cordoba, who ventured out of his apartment to search for beer at his corner convenience store.
ROJAS CORDOBA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: It's more essential now than ever since we're cooped up at home, he says. FEMSA, which operates Latin America's largest chain of convenience stores, says it's nearly out of beer. The head of investor relations Juan Fonseca gave the grim news on an earnings call last week.
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JUAN FONSECA: I don't want people to just get off the call and run to the store, but right now we're probably looking at about 10 days of inventory.
KAHN: Bloomberg reports that Constellation Brands, which sells Modelo and Corona labels in the U.S., is still operating in Mexico but for export only. Constellation didn't respond to inquiries on how they were getting around the Mexican health orders. For now, it's getting real tough to find beer in Mexican stores.
MARISOL SALAZAR: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: There isn't any; just what we have in stock, says Marisol Salazar. Her family-owned store has been a fixture in this quiet Mexico City neighborhood for decades. Beer sales are key to keeping the business afloat. Cuauhtemoc Rivera, head of a small business alliance, says the government's nonessential designation is hurting millions of Mexico's family-run shops.
CUAUHTEMOC RIVERA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "These stores are the DNA of local communities, and if you hurt them, you hurt everyone." He hopes beer is back on shelves soon before Mexicans really celebrate on their independence day in September.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.