San Diego Distilleries Take on Hand Sanitizer Shortage

San Diego's distillers are coming together to make hand sanitizer as stores sell out

Nick Kjeldgaard

If you've looked for hand sanitizer, you know stores around San Diego are sold out because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, two local distillers are coming together to make hand sanitizer and give it to workers who interact with people on a daily basis.

"We've been talking about this since the pandemic started," said the owner of Seven Caves Distillery Geoff Longenecker. "We all had the ability to make it, but we were waiting on guidance."

There are a lot of hand sanitizer videos and recipes which explain how people can make their own, but Longenecker said this recipe comes directly from the World Health Organization (WHO).

"There's a lot out there," said Longenecker. "But they are a radically different formula than the one the WHO gave us. This is very strong, very potent, and very effective."

Because hand sanitizer is so hard to find, many people began inflating the price on websites like Amazon. That's why Longenecker and his friend Bill Rogers of Liberty Call Distilling are making sure it ends up in the hands of people who need it.

"If you're staying at home just wash your hands," said Rogers. "If you have to go out and interact with people, you need hand sanitizer."

Rogers says it's not just friends and family who want the hand sanitizer either.

"I've actually had a hospital reach out to me because they want more," said Rogers. "Our big issue is finding the bottles. The hydrogen peroxide was also an issue and glycerol isn't easy to find either."

As San Diego's restaurant industry turns to delivery and take-out, Longenecker says those workers are at higher risk.

"People are out there trying to keep their restaurant afloat by delivering to people in cars and we want to make sure they have a bottle of hand sanitizer," said Longenecker. "If this is a small piece we can do to help, then that's why I'm doing it."

Rogers' distillery Liberty Call was supposed to hold a grand opening for its new Barrio Logan Tasting Room next week. Now those plans have been put on hold.

"We're trying to find ways to keep our employees working," said Rogers. "We're going to see where this goes."

Both Longenecker and Rogers say they understand why the industry is shut down, and agree that self-quarantining is the way to go.

"We're not going to charge for this hand sanitizer," said Longenecker. "But I'll ask for donations to the United States Bartenders Guild because they have a fund set up to help bartenders who are going to be in a lot of financial trouble.

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