Out of stock: Spain’s nightlife faces alcohol shortages

At the Cafe Comercial, one of Madrid's oldest cafes whose marble columns and ornate chandeliers draw throngs of tourists and locals, bottles of some popular drinks are in short supply.

Filled shot glasses on a tray
Supply chain issues are making it hard for bars and restaurants to keep up with demand for certain brands of alcoholic drinks. picture alliance / dpa | Axel Heimken

“It is hard to get deliveries. Certain brands of gin, tequila and whisky are impossible to find,” the manager of the emblematic cafe, Raul Garcia, told AFP.

“The lack of stock is affecting well-known international brands we never would have thought would one day be unavailable.”

He is not alone.

Due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, bars and nightclubs across Spain have struggled to stock their shelves since Covid-19 restrictions on social life were fully lifted last month.

This is raising hackles in a country where social life is concentrated outside of the home, and big groups often meet up for tapas or dinner followed by rounds of drinks.

“The shortage is not generalised, but is concentrated on some brands. The problem is that these are brands people are very attached to,” said Roberto Ucelay, the manager of the Los Olivos Beach Resort in Tenerife, part of Spain’s Canary Islands.

Among the popular names affected are Beefeater gin, Absolut vodka and Patron tequila.

‘Problem of delivery’
The shortages are due to the global shipping crisis, sparked by an uptick in demand from China and the United States which “affects all international trade”, Spain’s association of spirits makers, Espirituosos Espana, said in a statement.

Suppliers have struggled with shortages in bottles and cardboard boxes needed to package alcohol, as well as a lack of drivers, containers and trucks to ship it.

“It is not a problem of the availability of products, it is a problem of delivery,” said a spokesman for France’s Pernod Ricard, the world’s number-two spirits maker.

Other European nations like Britain have also been hit by alcohol shortages, but in Spain the problem is compounded by the country’s consumption patterns, he said.

Bars and restaurants account for almost half of all alcohol sales in Spain, compared to just one-fifth in France, where supermarkets account for the bulk of sales, the spokesman said.

When business picked up in Spain after virus restrictions were removed, this more complicated supply chain “had to get up and running again” — a process that takes time, he said.


‘There are alternatives’

Daniel Mettyear, analyst at London-based alcohol industry consultancy IWSR, agreed, saying Spain’s supply system “is fragmented and involves many players”, which adds to the difficulties.

“Spain is the country in the world with the most bars and restaurants per inhabitant,” he said.

During the months that virus restrictions on social life were in place, bars reduced their orders and liquidated their stocks of alcohol and it will take time to replenish them now that business has picked up, he said.

“They have a long way to go,” he said.

Spain’s association of spirits makers predicts the problem will not last long, but with the busy Christmas holidays fast approaching, businesses are worried.

Ucelay, the manager of the Los Olivos Beach Resort, said he has been told it will take six months to get some brands of champagne.

“That is too long,” he said.

Vicente Pizcueta, spokesman for Noche de Espana, an association which represents the nightclub sector, said the problem will continue “as long as the market is not more fluid”.

“We have a problem with certain brands, not with types of alcohol. Spain is an important spirits maker and has brands that remain available in all categories,” he said. “There are alternatives.”



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Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Many foreigners in Spain complain that the streets are full of dog faeces, but is that actually true and what, if anything, is being done to address it?

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Spain is a nation of dog lovers.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), 40 percent of Spanish households have a dog.

In fact, believe it or not, the Spanish have more dogs than they do children.

While there are a little over 6 million children under the age of 14 in Spain, there are over 7 million registered dogs in the country. 

But one bugbear of many foreigners in Spain is that there’s often a lot of dog mess in the streets, squares and parks.

The latest estimates suggest it’s as much as 675,000 tonnes of doodoo that has to be cleaned up every year in Spain.

Many dog owners in Spain carry around a bottle of water mixed with detergent or vinegar to clean up their dog’s urine and small plastic bags to pick up number twos.

And yet, many owners seem to either turn a blind eye to their pooches’ poo or somehow miss that their pets have just pooed, judging by the frequency with which dog sh*t smears Spanish pavements. 

So how true is it that Spain has a dog poo problem? Is there actually more dog mess in Spain than in other countries, and if not, why does it seem that way?

One contextual factor worth considering when understanding the quantity of caca in Spain’s calles is how Spaniards themselves actually live.

When one remembers that Spaniards mostly live in apartments without their own gardens, it becomes less surprising that it feels as though there’s a lot of dog mess in the streets. Whereas around 87 percent of households in Britain have a garden, the number in Spain is below 30 percent.

Simply put, a nation of dog lovers without gardens could mean more mess in the streets. 

Whereas Britons often just let their dogs out into their garden to do their business, or when they can’t be bothered to take them for a walk even, Spaniards have to take them out into the street, unless they’re okay with their pooches soiling their homes. 

There aren’t many dog-friendly beaches in Spain, and the fact that on those that do exist, some owners don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, doesn’t strengthen the case for more ‘playas para perros‘ to be added. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

Doggy dirt left in the streets is most certainly not a Spain-specific problem either, but rather an urban one found around the world.

In recent years, there have been complaints about the sheer abundance of canine faecal matter left in public spaces in Paris, Naples, Rome, Jerusalem, Glasgow, Toronto, London, San Francisco and so on.

READ ALSO: Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a worldwide study to shed light on which cities and countries have the biggest ‘poo-blem’, with the available investigations mainly centred on individual nations, such as this one by Protect my Paws in the US and UK

And while it may be more noticeable in Spain than in some countries, it doesn’t mean the Spanish are doing nothing about it.

In fact, Barcelona has been named the third best city in Europe for dealing with the problem, according to a study by pet brand

Although Barcelona’s score of 53/80 was significantly lower than many British cities (Newcastle scored 68/80 and Manchester 66/80, for example) its hefty fines of 1,500 for dog owners caught not cleaning up after their canine friends might be a reason. 

And some parts of Spain take it even more seriously than that.

In many Spanish regions doggy databases have been created to catch the culprits. Over 35 Spanish municipalities require dog owners to register their pets’ saliva or blood sample on a genetic database so they can be traced and fined, if necessary. 

In Madrid, you are twice as likely to come across someone walking a dog than with a baby’s stroller. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

This DNA trick started earlier in Spain than in many other countries; the town of Brunete outside of Madrid kicked off the trend in 2013 by mailing the ‘forgotten’ poo to neglectful owners’ addresses. Some municipalities have also hired detectives to catch wrongdoers.

So it’s not as if dog poo doesn’t bother Spaniards, with a 2021 survey by consumer watchdog OCU finding that it’s the type of dirt or litter found in the streets than bothers most people.

READ ALSO: Clean or dirty? How does your city rank on Spain’s cleanliness scale? 

It’s therefore not a part of Spanish culture not to clean up after dogs, but rather a combination of Spain’s propensity for outdoor and urban living, the sheer number of dogs, and of course the lack of civic duty on the part of a select few. Every country has them. 

On a final note, not all dog owners in Spain who don’t clean up after their pooches can be blamed for doing it deliberately, but it’s certainly true that looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with your dog, or walking with your dog off the leash (also illegal except for in designated areas) isn’t going to help you spot when your pooch has done its business.

Article by Conor Faulkner and Alex Dunham