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National liquor shortage affecting Toledo-area businesses

Liquor bottles made in Central America and China are taking much longer to reach manufacturers. Now liquor stores have empty shelves and buying limits.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Right now there is a liquor shortage all across the nation as supply chains continue to struggle with the realties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Jessica Kawiecki, the manager at Liquor Cabinet in Lambertville, Mich., liquor shortages have become the new normal.

"Every week when I do orders and there's empty shelves, and it's just coming out of stock religiously ... it does get very frustrating - for us and the consumer," Kawiecki said.

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They're just one of many stores, distilleries, and restaurants across the country struggling with the same issue since the start of the pandemic. But according to Lukas Koomer, the head distiller for Toledo Spirits, the problem isn't coming from the liquor itself.

"The beverage is still getting produced everywhere as necessary," Koomer said. "I mean we're not having an issue with production. What we're really running into is that supply chain, that transport of the finished goods and the transport of the bottles."

Specifically liquor bottles, which are usually made in Central America and China, are now taking much longer to reach manufacturers. This has resulted in liquor stores with empty shelves and purchase limits, forcing distillers and sellers to innovate. 

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"We've had to shift bottles," Koomer said. "We've gone from a wide variety of bottles to all-arounds and easily available bottles that are produced fairly locally."

Koomer explained that the major liquor brands that refuse to ship their product without their iconic bottles are the biggest casualties of the supply chain issues. While this is affecting consumers, it isn't stopping them from having a drink.

"They're just picking something else for the most part," Kawiecki said. "If you're brand loyal, of course it's upsetting, but we can always give you a good recommendation on something else you can get."

Kawiecki says that while it's frustrating to not be able to have every product she would normally have in stock, she understands these issues aren't exclusive to her business.

"From grocery stores to automobiles, everyone's feeling it," she said. "We're just trying to do the best that we can and keep the products we can keep on the shelves for the customers."