New Hanover County restaurants battle labor, glass shortages

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 3:40 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges for bar and restaurant owners across the country, including southeastern North Carolina.

Labor shortages have lead to glass shortages which, in turn, prevent alcohol distributors from packaging some of their products. This has led New Hanover County’s ABC board to get creative.

“We’re trying to offer as many substitutes for our bars and restaurants as we can because we know it’s tough for those guys after the year they had in 2020,” said Charles Hill, general manager of New Hanover County’s ABC Board.

Business managers, however, say their customers are not always willing to accept substitutes when they go to drink at a bar or restaurant.

“People are going to drink what they like to drink, they’re brand specific,” said Ellie Craig, marketing manager at Front Street Brewery. “So finding a substitute for something isn’t always what a consumer wants, so that’s been a little bit of an issue.”

One way the New Hanover County ABC board is trying to work with local businesses to help combat the problem is by trying to keep up with increased demand. The board gets direct shipments into the ABC warehouse instead of having supplies make a stop at the state warehouse. Hill says this allows the board to get more bottles on to shelves.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve seen more coming in, the state warehouse has more coming in,” said Hill. “Hopefully it’s a trend upwards and hopefully that will be the light at the end of the tunnel for everyone.”

Supply of some products is still limited.

“We’re not seeing the levels of product come in that we normally see this time of year,” said Craig. “This is bourbon and whiskey season and it’s getting a little bit harder and harder to get those products in on a regular basis.”

While Hill is hopeful the problem will be over soon, Craig says her business is preparing for a fall season plagued with fewer brand options and less glass.

“We’re all trying to find a workaround to this problem, this glass shortage,” said Craig. “But it’s going to continue to be an issue for a while.”

Craig says she is grateful for the effort the state ABC board is putting in to try and keep as many products stocked as possible, but knows there could be more challenges on the way.

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