Bars And Distilleries Help Combat COVID-19 By Producing Hand Sanitizer

Apr 3, 2020

Perfect Plain staff have been working to make and sell hand sanitizer with 100% of proceeds benefiting employees who have lost income.
Credit Perfect Plain Brewing Co.

If you’re having a hard time finding hand sanitizer, you might want to see what’s on tap at a local bar. 

After Gov. Ron DeSantis issued the executive order March 20 to close bars and restaurants, some of those businesses decided to put the excess alcohol to good use. 

Camden Ford, master distiller at Timber Creek Distillery in Crestview, said he and his business partner, Aaron Barnes, started making hand sanitizer about a month ago as the demand started to kick up. 

Using the World Health Organization’s guide, they started making batches of it and giving it away. And their distillery has never been busier. 

“We wanted to do something to help our community,” said Ford. “Our first day we had people waiting down the road. When you say ‘free’ people get interested.”

At first the distillery asked people to bring their own containers to be filled, but that proved to be an issue, said Ford. 

“We had people bringing in milk jugs,” Ford said. “You can get that hoarder mentality, now we limit it to one eight-ounce bottle per person.”

You can pick up a bottle 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday at the Distillery, 6451 Lake Ella Road, Crestview.

Timber Creek is a two-man operation between Ford and Barnes. They’ve been working every day for the past month to keep the supply up. Ford admits he’s tired, but also proud of the work. 

Timber Creek co-owner Aaron Barnes works on making hand sanitizer based on the World Health Organization guide.
Credit Timber Creek Distillery

For businesses larger than two people, it’s been a hardship to not only lose revenue, but to keep staff. At Perfect Plain Brewing Co. in Pensacola, owner D.C. Reeves decided hand sanitizer could be a way to help the community and his staff of 15 employees. 

A suggested $5 donation will get you two four-ounce bottles of sanitizer. All of the proceeds will go to Perfect Plain staff. The brewery is also donating half of their inventory to first responders and health care workers. 

“It’s two good deeds in one,” said Reeves.  

The hand sanitizer is also the product of collaboration.

Rollins Distillery in Gulf Breeze provided the high-proof alcohol to make the hand sanitizer; the event company GlowRage donated the plastic bottles; and Baptist Health Care donated the ultrasound gel. Perfect Plaint takes care of labor and distribution. 

Almost as soon as batches are finished, they’re sold out, Reeves said. They’ve already sold 500 bottles and donated another 500. And a few hundred more are on the way. You can purchase during businesses hours from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Perfect Plain, 50 E. Garden St., Pensacola. 

“When people call us, it’s the number-one question right now,” Reeves said. 

Rollins Distillery has not only helped Perfect Plain with their batch, but they are creating their own branded bottles of hand sanitizer. Using the WHO recipe of ethanol, purified water, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide, the distillery has produced more than 3,300 bottles of sanitizer, said Patrick Rollins.

Since the FDA has relaxed hand sanitizer regulations to allow for local production, Rollins said he feels the added responsibility to make sure the product is safe and effective. 

“The same care and respect we put into our vodkas and rum is the same for the sanitizer,” he said. “It’s the same mantra of quality.”

Sanitizer will be available at the tasting room, located at 5680 Gulf Breeze Parkway, 12-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. There is an allotment of two bottles per person or four per household while the demand is high. 

The hardest part is finding plastic bottles to fill.

“We’re giving it away to whoever needs it and graciously accepting donations which will be used to make more sanitizer,” said Rollins.

When Rollins and his dad first established the distillery in 2012, they had no idea their equipment would one day be used to make hand sanitizer. 

“We’ve been learning on the fly,” said Rollins. “It’s been nice to create something that everyone can use. Our sole purpose is to help a community in need.”