CHICAGO (CBS) — For Chicago area companies selling their products abroad, retaliatory tariffs against U.S. goods are creating problems.
Whiskey and bourbon are being added to the growing list of products impacted by a growing trade war.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports for local distilleries, the news is hard to swallow.
A small distillery in Evanston says they’re business is facing the front lines of a spirited trade war.
“We are just a pawn in the game of international trade,” said Paul Hletko, owner of Few Spirits.
Exports account for 15% of Few Spirits’ sales of artisan bourbon and whiskey.
“We have about a third of the high-end brewery market in Finland,” Hletko stated.
China and Europe are prime markets.
Hletko said, “We are already seeing our distributors either hold off on orders or dial back on the size of those orders. As of today, we have lost over $100,000 in orders based on fear of the tariffs, rather than actuality of tariffs that exist.”
Hletko blames it on the mere thought that U.S. spirits could cost distributors in those countries up to 25% more.
The Trump Administration raised tariffs on European steel by 25% and taken similar action on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. The respective countries are responding with tariffs that impact products, including U.S. spirits.
The rising domestic appeal of whiskey and bourbon at bars like R Public House in Rogers Park is echoed abroad.
“When I used to drink it, they would dust off the bottle,” said Renee Labrana of R Public House, “now we go through a case of Jameson a week.”
U.S. whiskey exports total $1.1 billion annually.
Hletko invested heavily in that growth, a market he hopes won’t dry up.
“If our price on the shelf goes up, sales will go down, and everyone in between will suffer,” he said.
There is no guarantee all 25% of a tariff will be passed along to foreign consumers, but Hletko says a bottle of Few Whiskey now costing $65 could soon be priced on the shelf for $80 dollars abroad, enough to impact consumer demand.