Pennsylvania Rations Alcohol Due to Crippled Supply Chain

Epoch Times – by Beth Brelje

A shortage of certain alcohol brands is leaving some drinkers in low spirits; the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) announced this week it would begin rationing a list of popular liquor labels.

Due to sustained supply chain disruptions and product shortages, purchase limits of two bottles, per customer, per day were applied to certain items beginning Friday, Sept. 17, and will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

The two-bottle limit applies to all consumers and liquor license holders such as bars and restaurants, and includes 43 well-known labels including Hennessy Cognac, Don Julio 1942 Tequila, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

The rationing was not a surprise to Shawn McCall, general manager at Room 33 Speakeasy in Erie, Pa. The speakeasy has had trouble getting some brands for the last three or four months.
“I haven’t been able to get Bulleit Bourbon for a month. Jack Daniel’s was out for a while but it’s back in now,” McCall told The Epoch Times in a phone interview. “People know there is a shortage, so bar owners are overstocking. That is why they put a limit on it.”

In Pennsylvania, wine and spirits are sold at state-operated stores where both consumers and liquor license holders shop. The state stores buy directly from producers so they have a first look at supply.

“We are aware of product shortages in other states,” PLCB Press Secretary Shawn Kelly told The Epoch Times in an email. “While the current supply challenges are not unique to Pennsylvania and are impacting markets across the U.S., the PLCB has experienced product shortfalls before, and we regularly impose bottle limits on products for which we know demand will exceed supply in order to distribute the product as fairly as possible. These bottle limits are preventative measures to fairly distribute product and minimize out-of-stock situations, which will vary by location.”

Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage & Tavern Association, says the rationing adds to a growing list of challenges for small businesses.

“Before the pandemic I believe there were problems making kegs, having to do with steel tariffs,” Moran told The Epoch Times in a phone interview. “We’ve dealt with shortages before. But now it seems to be one thing after another. We went through this with chicken wings, ketchup packets, plastic cups, and there is still a recovery effort going on from COVID. Businesses were having a hard time finding employees. The combination is really hampering recovery for small business.”

Moran hopes that when Pennsylvania’s legislators return to session Monday, they have a plan to help small businesses.

Glass Shortage and More

There are several reasons for the shortage. All producers who spoke with The Epoch Times pointed to increased consumer demand as one reason.

“Many of our brands, including Buffalo Trace Bourbon, have been on allocation for a few years due to demand outstripping supply of aged whiskey,” Amy Preske, spokeswoman for the Kentucky-based Sazerac Company told The Epoch Times in an email. “On average, the whiskeys we sell today were made seven to eight years ago (2013/14) and we underestimated today’s consumer demand.”

Buffalo Trace Distillery is in the midst of a $1.2 billion expansion, including more barrel warehouses, construction of an additional still, additional fermenters, and expanding its dry house operation. But it will still be a few years before bourbon supply catches up with demand. This shortage is related to any glass shortage or worker shortage in the supply chain, Preske said.

But Svend Jansen at Jack Daniel’s Distillers headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, says those issues did impact its operation.

“We are managing through the impact of global supply chain disruptions, including glass supply and challenging cost headwinds. With the rebound and recovery of our markets and channels, coupled with strong consumer demand for our brands, we are currently managing through glass supply constraints,” Svend told The Epoch Times in an email. “We have deployed a number of risk mitigation strategies and are working actively with our suppliers and distributor partners to optimize our supply chain to meet the consumer demand. While we expect these disruptions to persist throughout the fiscal year, we believe that the impact will become less significant in the second half of the year.”

A global glass shortage is affecting large and small companies. Adam Flatt, co-owner of Franklin Hill Vineyards in Bangor Pa., and Social Still, makers of Sasquatch Vanilla Maple Bourbon in Bethlehem Pa., says the cost of bottles has gone up and it’s tough to buy them at any price.

“Two years ago, I paid $1.47 for a glass bottle, now I pay $2.50 a bottle,” Flatt told The Epoch Times in a phone interview. “The supply chain is broken for sure for us small guys, and now suppliers are not warehousing as much as they used to.”

In January, he ordered 6,000 bottles for October. The supplier has changed the delivery to no sooner than January, but his orders have been pushed back so many times he is not confident about getting bottles by then. Flatt has changed bottle designs, suppliers and still struggles to get bottles. And there is more.

“There are labor shortages. For a while, nothing could be shipped to you. The bottle company was on quarantine and people were not allowed to work. Now demand is back, even better than before,” Flatt said. “But everything seems more challenging. Like pricing, a dollar more a bottle. Sometimes you think, ‘I’ll pay a little more to fix a problem,’ but money can’t fix some of these problems.”

Every part of the supply chain has problems, says Pat Shorb, president at  Holla Spirits, a York, Pa. vodka producer.

“If we were to order today, we would have issues getting bottles, caps, labels—many are experiencing problems with their glues, we can get them but they are delayed—it’s all down the board. It’s parts for equipment. It’s drivers, general freight at the ports, delays getting products out of warehouses and into stores,” Shorb told The Epoch Times in a phone interview. “There’s not a person in the industry who is not feeling the constraints of the supply chain.”

Shorb says he has a supplier who needs 50 workers in his warehouse and can’t find the workers, even with a $3,000 sign-on bonus. It means products sit in the warehouse longer and the company makes adjustments.

“We’re forecasting better, working more in advance and in higher quantities, and hoping that the supply chain issue shakes itself out,” Shorb said, adding that Pennsylvania’s ration of major brands is an opportunity for consumers to embrace new brands.

“A majority of major spirit brands are foreign-owned. It’s a great opportunity for consumers to support your local or regional producers, to experiment. There are phenomenal local products of superior quality and consumers should try them.”

Products Rationed in Pennsylvania

Bars and consumers may buy no more than two bottles of any items on this list.

  • 1792 Chocolate Bourbon Ball Cream Liqueur 34 Proof 750 ML
  • Baker’s Straight Bourbon Small Batch 107 Proof 750 ML
  • Blanton’s Single Barrel Straight Bourbon 750 ML
  • Blood Oath Bourbon Trilogy 3 Pack Second Edition 99 Proof  2.25 L
  • Bond and Lillard Straight Bourbon 100 Proof 375 ML
  • Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 90 Proof 1 L
  • Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon 90 Proof  750 ML
  • Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon 90 Proof 1.75 L
  • Colonel E H Taylor Jr Straight Bourbon Small Batch Bottle in Bond 100 Proof 750 ML
  • Dom Pérignon Champagne Brut 750 ML
  • Don Julio 1942 Tequila Añejo 80 Proof  750 ML
  • Don Julio Tequila Blanco 80 Proof 750 ML
  • Eagle Rare Single Barrel Straight Bourbon 10 Year Old  750 ML
  • Elijah Craig Single Barrel Straight Bourbon 18 Year Old 90 Proof 750 ML
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof 750 ML
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof  1 L
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof 200 ML
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof 375 ML
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof 50 ML
  • Hennessy Cognac VS 80 Proof 1.75 L
  • Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey 80 Proof 1.75 L
  • Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial Champagne 750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial Champagne Rose 750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Brut 375 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Brut 750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Brut 1.5 L
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Brut 187 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Rosé 750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne Rosé 187 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Champagne  750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial Champagne Rosé  750 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Champagne Rosé 375 ML
  • Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Champagne Rosé 187 ML
  • Patrón Tequila Silver 80 Proof 750 ML
  • Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old Straight Bourbon Barrel Proof 114 Proof 750 ML
  • Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey 90 Proof 750 ML
  • Veuve Clicquot Champagne Rose 750 ML
  • Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut 1.5 L
  • Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut 750 ML
  • Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut 750 ML
  • Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne Brut 375 ML
  • WB Saffell Straight Bourbon 107 Proof 375 ML
  • Weller Special Reserve Straight Bourbon 90 Proof 750 ML

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