“Like a treasure hunt” – NJ liquor stores run out of supplies

Every day, customers of Garden State Discount Liquors in Perth Amboy are faced with purchase limits on approximately 100 products in the store.

And it could be that way for at least a year.

“When it comes to things like Don Perignon… one bottle is all you get,” owner Paul Santelle said.

Santelle, who is also executive director of the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance, said a perfect storm of factors, most of which are a product of the coronavirus pandemic, has forced stores to operate with limited supplies of products to all levels, from beer to spirits.

Some of these factors: Factory outages in 2020, trucker / labor shortages, container issues, and increasing demand.

Since the start of the pandemic, Santelle added, many consumers have switched to higher-end alcohol brands because they no longer spend money every week on expensive drinks in bars and restaurants. Thus, high-end tequilas and high-end scotches, among other products, are not always available.

“It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt,” Santelle said. “No matter where you go, you can’t find it, and that includes the Internet.”

Santelle said her store receives countless emails every day from customers looking for a specific product. He believes the demand and frustration will be even greater as the holiday season approaches.

“I hope we’ll be in a better place 12 months from now,” Santelle said.

The impact on the consumer does not stop at purchasing limits. Following the typical business model, as supply tightens and demand increases, stores spend more money to get their hands on the products they and their customers need.

“The products keep coming in at a higher price, so obviously we have to increase the price,” said Jonathan Bello, manager of Hub Liquors in New Brunswick. “To be honest, no one is even complaining because they say it is happening everywhere.”

High-end cognacs and tequilas are among the hardest products to find for Hub consumers, Bello said.

The supply crisis initially only affected alcohol, according to Bello. A few months later, he said, the same problems started with beer.

“And it’s actually the main brands – Corona, Modelo, that are actually our bestsellers,” he said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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