Liquor shortage might affect holiday parties nationwide

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This is not exactly the kind of news you want to hear going into the holiday season. Especially if you're the type of person who needs a strong cocktail to get through the family party without losing your mind.

A liquor shortage is turning that holiday happy hour a little sad across the nation.

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"Supply chain issues are very real and will impact every liquor retailer throughout the country at some point, especially during the busy holiday season," New Hampshire Liquor Commission spokesman E.J. Powers told Seacoast Online.

Industry experts say certain wine and liquor may be hard to find over the next few weeks -- and possibly even months, depending on the spirit. A variety of factors are to blame, as the global alcohol supply chain is dealt the same hand that's causing other product shortages during the pandemic.

"We're seeing some shortages coming from the large distillers, and also the craft distillers are having issues as well," David Ozgo of the Distilled Spirits Council told TODAY.

Nearly every facet of the industry is affected by staffing shortages, from port and customs employees to truck drivers and warehouse workers. That's led to shipping delays, backups at ports, and ultimately less bottles on the shelf at the corner store.

Considering about 40% of hard alcohol in the United States is imported, those issues spell disaster for consumers looking for high-end bottles of liquor, wine and even Champagne.

"Tequila, cognacs, the high end rums, all of the good stuff it's very hard to find right now," Corey Kennedy, a liquor store owner in New Orleans, told WWL-TV.

To make matters worse, there's also a shortage of glass bottles used for liquor and wine. This can be partly blamed on an influx in demand for hard alcohol as lockdowns set in and people were stuck at home, learning to make their own craft cocktails.

"The demand was incredible," Scott DeFife, president of the Glass Packaging Institute, told Marketplace. "Because of the switch from on-premise dining to consumption at home."

Without the glass, distillers and winemakers who have product to push out are sitting on liquor in barrels and storage tanks, which could lead to alcohol going bad before it can hit the shelf.

"More and more, we're having to leave wine in these tanks or purchase additional tanks to help store the wine," Phil Long, the founder of California's Longevity Wines, told TODAY. "There's the chance of wine going bad and wine being not what you wanted it to be."

Because some libations may be in short supply this year, experts warn you should prepare for sticker shock as it might cost a bit more than pre-pandemic prices. They're also warning that this might not be over soon, with some experts predicting that supply chain issues will continue into next year.

"With the holidays around the corner and inventory levels low in some cases," Lisa Hawkins, Distilled Spirits Council senior vice president of public affairs, told FOX Business. "Customers should be on the lookout now if they have a very specific bottle of spirits in mind."

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