Here’s Why Some Places Are Rationing Liquor Sales—Indefinitely

By Nicholas Reimann, Forbes Staff

Topline

Supply chain issues that have affected everything from the price of bacon to lumber inventories during the coronavirus pandemic may now be hitting your local liquor store, as reports of booze shortages pop up throughout the country--here's why.

Essentially every step of the supply chain is contributing to a shortage of alcohol. getty

Key Facts

Issues at almost every step of the supply chain appear to be impacting the alcohol business, with no signs of decreased demand.

The problems start with the packaging—the U.S. is facing a shortage of both glass and aluminum cans, which make up most of the containers that hold alcoholic beverages.

When it comes to distribution, shipping for booze and many other American products has been slowed by a truck driver shortage, which has gotten so bad American companies are trying to hire overseas workers to fill staffing gaps.

Generalized labor shortages across the U.S. workforce also aren't helping, causing problems from the production lines to retail stores.

Surprising Fact

Two states where the government directly owns liquor stores, Pennsylvania and Virginia, have put quotas on how much customers can buy at a time for certain brands, mainly popular whiskies and bourbons. Virginia's list of restricted items limits customers to only one bottle per day, while Pennsylvania allows for two bottles per day. 

Key Background

Retail alcohol sales started soaring after lockdowns went into place in March 2020, as Americans were forced to drink at home instead of going out to restaurants or bars. Retail alcohol sales skyrocketed 20% during 2020, including a 26.7% jump in hard liquor sales. There's been little sign of demand dropping during 2021 despite most bars and restaurants reopening around the country. In fact, Buffalo Trace Distillery claimed in a recent news release that the company is "producing and shipping a record amount of product," but that’s apparently not enough to keep up with demand. Its bourbon is listed as a rationed product in both Pennsylvania and Virginia.

What We Don't Know

It's unclear at this point how long the shortages might last.

Further Reading

Violence, Drugs And Fast Food: How Americans’ Risky Behavior Surged While Under A Covid Lockdown (Forbes)

A Trucking Crisis Has the U.S. Looking for More Drivers Abroad (Bloomberg)

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