Glass shortage has pubs, distilleries nearing the breaking point

·3 min read
The effects of supply chain slowdowns have been felt in many different Canadian sectors, and now Ottawa pubs and distillers say they're struggling with a shortage of glass bottles. (Nicky Loh/Reuters - image credit)
The effects of supply chain slowdowns have been felt in many different Canadian sectors, and now Ottawa pubs and distillers say they're struggling with a shortage of glass bottles. (Nicky Loh/Reuters - image credit)

Several distilleries, restaurants and pubs in Ottawa and beyond are among the latest victims of global supply chain disruptions as a shortage of glass bottles has left them wondering how to serve their customers.

Adam Brierley, owner of Ogham Craft Spirits micro-distillery, said he was reduced to selling spirits in maple syrup bottles due to the shortage this year.

His Kanata distillery might not see new glass bottles again until 2023, he said.

"If we don't have that vessel to give to the customers, there's a big problem," said Brierley.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Brierley said he could place an order for glass bottles and expect them to arrive within a week.

Now, he said he has to put in orders at least six months in advance — and the bottles that are available are significantly more expensive.

'There just simply isn't any stock'

The effects of supply chain slowdowns have been felt in many different Canadian sectors, causing furniture prices to rise, cattle producers to run out of feed for their animals and automakers to halt production and lay off employees.

The glass bottle shortage is affecting liquor authorities on both sides of the Ottawa River, with the LCBO telling CBC in an email it is experiencing "global supply chain challenges with some products."

The SAQ, meanwhile, said in an email it is experiencing shortages of items like glass, wine corks and labels, which was causing "some shortage of alcohols or some delivery delay."

Some bars who source their spirits from the LCBO said they're now feeling the pinch.

"Our customers are no stranger to coming in and asking for their favourite drink," said Mike Estabrooks, owner of Irene's Pub and Restaurant in Ottawa. "And the bartender [is now] apologizing and saying there just simply isn't any stock."

Jean Delisle/CBC
Jean Delisle/CBC

Estabrooks said he used to be able to get everything he needed for the Glebe bar in one visit to the nearest LCBO. Now he visits at least three different locations and sometimes returns empty-handed.

He said he's stocking up on liquor for the next two months to avoid shortages in the summer and having to buy it all at once is causing cash flow issues.

Could be passed on to customers

At Deacon Brodie's, owner Ken Goodhue said he relies heavily on the LCBO to get single malt scotch, his bar's specialty.

But it's now a rare sight and Goodhue is worried he won't be able to retain clientele.

While he's still serving some of the liquor from the Highlander Pub, which closed down in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, Goodhue said that's not a long-term solution.

"We can't replace it. Once they're gone, they're gone," he said. "Because there is no product available."

Submitted by Adam Brierley
Submitted by Adam Brierley

Brierley said the disruptions are contributing to a rise in both the price of glass bottles and their transportation to Canada, with customers likely shouldering the burden.

That leaves him worried about the future of the local beverage industry.

"These compounding costs are going to scare people away from supporting local, because local will become too expensive," he said.

"Ultimately we need to stay in business, because we need something that supports my family."

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