No Good Deed: Local Distillers That Made Sanitizer Faced Surprise $14K Fee Till Feds Intervened

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Struggling distillers were hit earlier this week with a surprise $14,060 fee from the FDA for producing hand sanitizer during the pandemic -- which was waived off on New Year's Eve by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The reality is it really does hit us, and it's kind of a gut punch to us at the end of what has been a very challenging year," Geoff Longenecker, the owner of Seven Caves Distillery, told NBC 7 on Thursday before he heard the news from HHS.

A call to action to ramp up the production of hand sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic was nearly a costly one for some distilleries -- including Seven Caves and Liberty Call distilleries in San Diego -- after the FDA announced those companies would have to pay a $14,060 fee.

Mark Leimbach
Containers of microbiocidal hand sanitizer manufactured by Liberty Call and Seven Caves distilleries. Photo by Mark Leimbach

The FDA made the distilleries register as “monograph drug facilities” when they started producing hand sanitizer and the fee was a result of those registrations.

But in a twist, NBC 7 learned on Thursday afternoon that the federal government instead backed off on those demands amid a backlash from distillery owners and politicians.

Hundreds of distilleries across the country were told they would have to pay the surprise fee.

The distilleries were able to fairly rapidly make changes to their production and packaging lines to get the sanitizer out to San Diegans. Many of them were left scrambling this week after the fees were announced, especially since they would have been responsible for paying another $14,060 in 2022 for fiscal year 2021 if they were still licensed as of Friday, Jan. 1.

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