Guinness taps run dry: Supply chain crisis causes liquor shortages ahead of holiday season

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Supply chain crisis drains B.C. pub of Irish staple'
Consumer Matters: Supply chain crisis drains B.C. pub of Irish staple
A Vancouver pub owner has been hit hard by the supply chain crisis. As Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa explains, he's turning to the local market to help make up for the loss of an Irish staple – Nov 15, 2021

Sean Heather has built his business off of Guinness.

When the owner of The Irish Heather Shebeen came to Canada 30 years ago, Heather says he couldn’t get a decent pint of Guinness and decided to build his business plan around others looking for a proper pint.

“For me, it’s like the cornerstone of everything that I’ve achieved in my 26 years of business,” he said. “So it’s a little bit unnerving to see that cornerstone not be there anymore.”

Heather has recently fallen victim to the supply chain crisis as the Guinness taps at the Vancouver landmark have run dry. He’s now turning to a local porter to make up for the loss.

“We don’t have any Guinness. It’s a tragedy,” he said. “At the end of the day, Guinness is about 75 per cent of my beer sales and right now, the new product is selling 45 per cent of that. Basically, I am taking a hit.”

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Irish beers like Harp Lager and Kilkenny are also out of stock, and exactly when a new shipment of Guinness will arrive is anyone’s guess.

Heather said he’s been told his product is on backlogged ships off San Diego.

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“The last two deadlines have come and gone and there has been no sign. We just have to move forward assuming there is no Guinness for the next few months and if it comes, it’s gravy and if it doesn’t — well, we are prepared.”

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Heather isn’t alone.

The supply chain crisis is leading to a liquor supply shortage across the industry on certain imports.

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“We are already seeing shortages and massive disruptions in the supply chain where we can’t get them into the stores now because, instead of taking a few weeks to get to market, it’s now taking a few months,” Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said.

With the height of the holiday season just weeks away, there’s growing concern that products like certain imported wines, proseccos and champagnes will be hard to find.

“If you have a favourite product and if you want to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate for holiday dinners, I would buy it now and keep it in the fridge for the next six to eight weeks,” said Guignard.

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Some private liquor stores have been stocking up on product to tackle an unprecedented season.

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“Going forward, it could be an issue keeping those shelves stocked and products coming in,” said Crosstown Liquor Store general manager Craig Philp.

As to when there might be some relief, industry experts say it’s difficult to get answers.

“It’s’ too many moving parts. It’s too complicated. With global and supply chain disruptions in every industry, we are just one of the many people affected by this and we have no idea when it will get better,” Guignard said.

Heather agreed.

“If I could get Guinness by any means, I would get Guinness, but this is not something that I have chosen. This is not some grand strategy. As soon as we can get it back, we will have it.”

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