News & Press: Regional News

Statewide liquor shortage affects bar owners

Tuesday, November 12, 2019  
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Whitney Burney | Woodtv

November 10, 2019

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — Local bars are feeling the effects of a statewide liquor shortage. 

This comes after one of three authorized liquor distributors in Michigan, Republic National Distributing Company, moved to a new facility. Since then, they have been experiencing chronic software issues, according to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Bar owners say those issues have led to their weekly deliveries coming in up to five days late. 

“Friday comes along and then Friday goes. No delivery and no word that it’s going to be late or anything like that,” Kyle Dobrowolski, O’Toole’s Public House general manager, said in a busy bar. “And going into the weekend, with that being over half our stock, it really hurts us and hurts our guests.”

Dobrowolski says over the last few weeks, they’ve been running low on stock of Jameson Whisky, Tito’s Vodka and many of their well-brand vodkas, which are their top sellers. This forces their customers to order something else when they run out. 

O’Toole’s is not the only bar that’s being affected. News 8 spoke to at least five others in downtown Grand Rapids who are experiencing the same issue, including Anchor Bar.

Bar owners say they worry if this continues, it will begin to cut into their sales. 

“Maybe people aren’t drinking as much because we don’t have the products on hand or maybe they’re going somewhere else where they do have that specific product,” Dobrowolski said. 

The MLCC has given RNDC a notice to fix the issues. If they aren’t resolved, they could face consequences.

A statement released on the state’s website said in part:

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) has called on one of the principal authorized distribution agents (ADA), NWS Michigan LLC, doing business as Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), to implement a corrective plan of action that will immediately address liquor licensee complaints regarding delivery issues, stock shortages, and lack of customer service that are negatively impacting their businesses. RNDC, one of State’s three ADAs, is responsible for the warehousing and delivery of spirit products on behalf of MLCC to its licensees.

We are holding RNDC accountable on how they plan to fix this situation for our licensees,” said MLCC Chair Pat Gagliardi. “It’s our priority to ensure our licensees have their shelves stocked for the public, especially in advance of the holiday season.”

The statement goes on to say RNDC could face potential fines for this issue. 

A full statement from the MLCC can be found on the state’s government website.

Bar owners say they’ve gotten little communication from RNDC about when things will get back on track, but they hope it’s soon.

News 8 reached out to RNDC about the issue. They sent a statement apologizing to customers.

In the statement Steve Rochow, the Michigan State Executive Vice President for RNDC, says:

“We apologize for these delays. They are not acceptable. We are working as quickly as possible to resolve the issues that are causing them, but it may be several weeks before customers regain their normal high levels of service, said Rochow. “We are entirely focused on fixing our issues to meet customers’ needs.”

Some bars say they are looking at working with a new distributor as a result. O’Toole’s has started ordering double their inventory and offering specials to accommodate the shortage.

 


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