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COVID-19: Nationwide Liquor Shortage Affects Stores, Bars, Restaurants

A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores. A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores.
A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores. Photo Credit: Daily Voice
A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores. A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores.
A national liquor shortage is causing supply issues for bars, restaurants, and stores. Photo Credit: Daily Voice

The COVID-19 pandemic claimed an unexpected victim as the nation faces a shortage of liquor that is impacting stores, bars, and restaurants across the country.

Some states along the East Coast have started to limit purchases due to alcohol shortages related to the pandemic, which saw a marked uptick in the number of people staying home and enjoying a drink or two after a long day of working remotely.

According to the Alcohol and Beverage Commission, some states have started rationing their liquor sales amid supply chain issues, though there is no clear timetable for when the supply will match the demand after the pandemic wreaked havoc on some businesses.

Issues cited up by alcohol producers for the limited supply include product shortages brought about by the pandemic, as well as shipping and delivery issues due to a lack of staff or capable drivers.

“Take a labor shortage involving a lack of truck drivers, dock workers, and warehouse employees, then shake that up with backed up docks, slower manufacturing processes, and more expensive raw materials, and you get a quick lesson in how supply chain economics is having a direct impact on small businesses all over the US,” according to a Forbes report.

“It’s not just the lack of glass that has small breweries and distilleries grumbling. A lack of packaging materials (from the paper for labels to the crowns that sit on top of bottles) are also causing disruptions for liquor sellers of all stripes.”

Other issues included the uptick in drinking during the pandemic, with some stores reporting sales increasing by approximately 50 percent since the virus first started spreading throughout the region in March 2020.

“The bourbon category continues to grow at a rapid rate, and while we have been increasing production across our portfolio for the last several years, we are still catching up to consumer demand,” Sara Saunders, vice president of marketing for Buffalo Trace Distillery previously stated.

“While we are producing and shipping a record amount of product, we understand the frustration from fans that our brands aren’t easy to find or readily available.”

According to a Columbia University study, during the pandemic, US alcohol retailers sold $41.9 billion worth of liquor between March and September 2020, representing an increase of 20 percent nationwide over the previous year.

“While there is still much left to understand about alcohol use behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe it is important to make more aggressive efforts to warn the population about the risks associated with increased home alcohol consumption during a pandemic,” Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, and senior author of the study said.

“It is also important to investigate alcohol use behaviors among individuals at high risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2 such as frontline workers and among those living alone for longer isolation periods.”

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