Vermont experiencing hard liquor shortages

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 4:25 PM EDT
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WINOOSKI, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is in the midst of a liquor shortage. State regulators say the shortage is related to the pandemic and it’s leading to empty shelves in stores and warehouses.

Preparation continues for the opening day of The Archives’ second location in Winooski. The arcade bar originally was supposed to open up last year, but the pandemic kept them closed until Thursday. Now, the bar’s Matthew Walters says they face another obstacle. “The liquor shortage has been a challenge,” he said.

And it’s not just the bars and restaurants. “There’s enough to at least have your second choice if not your first,” said George Bergin with the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski. “With all the bars and restaurants opening up everywhere, everyone is trying to restock their shelves and it’s just taking a little bit of time to get caught up with the sudden demand.”

“It is a global issue. A lot of it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s not going to be a quick fix,” said Vt. Department of Liquor and Lottery Deputy Commissioner Wendy Knight

Vermont is among state that uses a control model for distilled spirits, which means the state acts as a wholesaler. After purchasing the liquor, it distributes it to stores licensed by the state, which then sell it to the public and to bars and restaurants. But a visit to the state warehouse where it is all stored shows shelves that are emptier than usual.

“When consumers see empty shelves and empty spots on the 802 Spirits stores, we have to understand that we have a global supply chain issue,” Knight said. She says those issues are from production gearing back up from the pandemic, worker shortages, shipping issues, and a glass shortage. That comes on top of demand from restaurants and bars reopening.

Knight says the state saw a 13% increase in liquor sales during the pandemic. “We are not raising prices to compensate for the lack of supply,” she said. She adds that they are focusing on prioritizing the service industry. “Knowing that they have been closed down for the past 15 months, it’s a priority that they have the stock they need.”

“We will go and pick it up if we have to, to make sure we can still provide the cocktails and drinks that people have grown to love,” said The Archives’ Walters. He says their bar is fully stocked and they’ll do what they have to in order to keep it that way. “We will keep trying to find what we can with what we have and if we have to change things around, we will.”

Some of the current hot commodities are tequila and whiskey. That has also boosted sales in things like cocktails in a can that are ready to go.

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