Michigan is suffering through a booze shortage

Photo: Tero Vesalainen (iStock)

Detroit Lions fans in search of a cocktail to drown their Sunday sorrows might have had a hard time finding their preferred liquor. The state of Michigan is in the midst of a liquor shortage as Republic National Distributing Company, one of its largest distributors—the middle man between liquor companies and bars/stores—experiences technical difficulties. This has resulted in late or missed liquor deliveries, meaning some bars have run out of certain alcohol, and it looks like the delivery snafus will continue through this week.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Republic National Distributing Company moved to a new warehouse in Livonia, Michigan, and is experiencing software issues as a result of the move. The software glitches are preventing liquor inventory from being delivered to bars and retailers on time, and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and even the state’s attorney general have been asked to assist with the issue. A delivery schedule posted to the liquor control commission’s website indicates that deliveries are running days behind schedule. Retailers affected by the delivery issues are encouraged to file complaints online so the state can assess the scope of the issue.

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Republic National Distributing Company is just one of three authorized distributors in Michigan. Distributors are the middle tier of the so-called three-tier system, which America set up following Prohibition. Under the three-tier system, most alcohol—with a few exceptions—can’t be sold directly from the producer (the distillery or brewery or winery) to the retailer (bar or shop). Distributors instead act as middle men, collecting inventory from producers and selling and delivering it to retailers, among other functions. So even if a Grand Rapids bar is out of Tito’s, it’s not as though it can simply call up the Tito’s warehouse and ask for more. Bar owners are hoping customers will be willing to drink substitutes for their favorite brands—at least for a few more days.

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About the author

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.