Coronavirus: Closure of New Zealand's bottle shops could spell disaster for distilling industry

Although it's typically frowned upon to indulge in a cheeky beverage or two in the office, no such rules apply at your own kitchen table - and it appears many New Zealanders are keen to spend their working hours at home with an alcoholic drink in hand.

The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) is now urging everyone to show some restraint as bottle shops nationwide are subjected to mass panic-buying amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement that New Zealand will be placed in lockdown as of Wednesday, one bottle store chain has reported an 1800 percent spike in sales. 

"We understand that consumers want to ensure they have stocks in hand for the four week isolation period, but a rush on product is not going to help anyone," NZABC executive director Bridget MacDonald said in a statement on Thursday.

Although the council's preference is for bottle stores to remain open, discussions are underway regarding their potential closure. 

"The Government is aware that spirits and spirit-based beverages are not available in supermarkets, so we are hopeful we will have a viable way of selling these products in lockdown," Macdonald said, noting that online sales and delivery could be an option.

If New Zealand's distilleries are unable to get their products to consumers, it's likely many will be forced to shut down their operations.

"We are mindful that our own homegrown spirits industry of about 100 distilleries need a way to continue to get their product to the consumer," MacDonald explained.

"If we can’t agree on how to do this then it is likely that many will go out of business."

MacDonald acknowledges the closure of bottle shops will put more pressure on supermarkets and will turn liquor stores into targets for theft.

"Spirits [will] become a sought-after black market item."

While the future of New Zealand's distilling industry is currently uncertain, it's important Kiwis buy their alcohol in moderation while the bottle shops are open.