‘When something is gone, it’s gone’: Hamilton bars face liquor and wine shortages amid supply chain crisis

the Capitol Bar Owner Derek Weening says he’s not in the business of saying no.

When a customer sits in your King Street East bar and orders a cocktail, they are used to responding with the common phrase: “No problem, we can do that.”

But since the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent supply chain crisis, liquor shortages have caused all of that to change, Weening said.

“Just from the liquors that we can’t get anymore, I can think of five or six classic cocktails that we can’t make right now,” he said. “And it’s not just us, no one can get these products.”

The list of liquor shortages that give bartenders and mixologists headaches isn’t short, Weening said.

Hard-to-find staples include Jim Beam Black, El Jimador, Jameson’s, Campari, Beefeater Gin. On the fancier side, Frangelico, Ancho Reyes, Creme de Violette, Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Antica Formula, Chambord, and Clase Azul are scarce or nil.

And when it comes to whiskey, Weening said Bruichladdich, Blantons, Sazerac, West Cork, Powers Irish, Islay Scotch, Bourbon and Irish whiskeys are hard to come by.

“When something is gone, it is gone,” Weening said.

On October 17, the LCBO acknowledged in a letter to importers that both the global supply chain crisis and changes in consumer demand were affecting their service and stock levels. In Ontario, bars and restaurants get most of their alcohol supply from the crown corporation.

Supply chain director Nick Nanos said transportation issues and congestion at ports were causing an average three-week delay for container ships, with some locations experiencing a delay of up to six weeks, and those setbacks they account for about a third of the shortage of stocks. .

The effects of the pandemic and the “ability of its suppliers to keep up” with changing consumer demand account for about half of the shortage of stocks, he noted.

“Some of these global supply chain problems are expected to continue into the next year,” Nanos wrote. “We remain committed to working closely with our international supply chain partners and suppliers to stay informed and plan accordingly.”

The problems surrounding the liquor shortage are not new, said Kyle Ferreira, co-owner of Bar Sazerac on James Street North.

Last summer, Ferreira said he had trouble locating bottles of Jim Beam Black and Hornitos Tequila, while Knob Creek Bourbon was also in short supply.

Back on Capitol Hill, Weening said he had to change some of his rail liquor at least six times last summer, which means he often had to relearn bottle shapes and sizes, creating a new challenge. at the bar.

“It’s very frustrating,” Weening said.

With so little on the shelves, both Weening and Ferreira said they have grown used to having a higher level of inventory than they are used to and are spending more time making sure they have a well-stocked bar.

“You are making different business decisions based on what you can get,” Ferreira said. “Sometimes I have to drive an hour to get the last bottles of something.”

But even being able to do that is a privilege, Weening said.

“I’m lucky that I can afford it,” he said. “It is one thing for me to have the resources and a vehicle. If I didn’t have any of that … I would literally be waiting and waiting for them to put something on the shelves. ”

TO Equal parts hospitality, which operates The French, Aberdeen Tavern and Diplomat, both its liquor and wine lists have shrunk in size compared to pre-pandemic levels, said Jerrett Young, co-owner of the restaurant group.

“Obviously, there is a noticeable difference in the ease of obtaining products,” Young said. “We have to think a lot more about the volume that our suppliers have.”

And not meeting their basic supply needs could also mean damage to an establishment’s reputation, Ferreira said.

“There is great personal difficulty in saying no to someone,” said Ferreira. “That kind of prestige (as a cocktail bar) is earned, and if you can’t hold onto it, it’s hard to get it back.”

Fallon Hewitt is a reporter for The Spectator who lives in Hamilton. Contact her by email: [email protected]

What could be missing from the shelves this holiday season?

The LCBO said that retail and wholesale customers may see some empty or not-so-full shelves when it comes to the following products:

  • Champagnes and sparkling wines
  • New World wines from New Zealand, Australia and South America
  • Importation of spirits, especially whiskey and tequila.
  • International beers and ciders


Leave a Comment