Worldwide lime shortage affects Tempe bars
The lime shortage that has been affecting the U.S. in recent months has also been impacting bars and restaurants around Tempe.
Lime prices have risen because a cartel known as the Knights of Templar has been attacking and hijacking shipments in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, home to the world’s largest supplier of limes.
Poor weather conditions and diseases afflicting trees in the area have also contributed to the shortage.
Ryan Benton, general manager of World of Beer on Mill Avenue and 6th Street, said he has seen the changes in the quality of the fruit they’re getting in.
“They’re much smaller,” he said. “Not as much juice as in the past.”
As a result of higher prices, Benton said that the bar has started buying less limes and has transitioned to buying fresh juice rather than squeeze the fruit in-house.
"As long as everything is normal we try to squeeze our own," he said.
Chip Mahoney, general manager of Bar Louie at Tempe Marketplace, said he has also had to change the way the limes are used in the restaurant. Like World of Beer, Bar Louie has started buying pre-squeezed juice.
“It’s still 100 percent fresh,” Mahoney said of the juice. “We just couldn’t get enough of the product in.”
According to the New York Daily News, the U.S. imports over 95 percent of its limes from Mexico.
With ongoing violence and biological factors making it difficult for Mexican farmers to export their produce, prices have risen for both restaurants and consumers.
As part of a larger chain of restaurants, Bar Louie hasn’t been affected as much as some of its counterparts, Mahoney said.
“Smaller mom-and-pop operations have had some issues,” he said. “It’s frustrating for a lot of people, and it’s something we don’t want our business to be suffering from, but I think we’ve been able to weather the storm a little better than some others.”
Jeff Rhodes, general manager of Macayo’s Depot Cantina Restaurant, said he is used to adjusting to shortages or price hikes in various products.
“We monitor everything,” Rhodes said. “Beef, chicken, cheese, it all goes up.”
Despite the higher prices, all three general managers noted that the prices and quality of their drinks has not suffered.
“We have an obligation to stick to the standards our customers expect,” Rhodes said.
Lessening the blow is the fact that limes are not an integral part to the business and that the shortage is something that can be overcome.
“A lime isn’t really known as a sales drive,” Rhodes said. “It’s more of a garnish.”