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Vodka Distillery Becomes FDA-Approved Hand Sanitizer Business in Days

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A North County vodka distillery has turned into a commercial hand sanitizer company seemingly overnight after its main buyers, bars and restaurants, were ordered to close or cease dine-in services.

Co-founders Whit Rigali and Sam Chereskin observed the shortage of hand sanitizer and quickly turned Misadventure and Company into an FDA-approved hand sanitizer manufacturer.

“We saw that we make ethanol and why don't we start looking into this and maybe we could help out with this problem,” Rigali told NBC 7.

They said they spent years making an efficient vodka distillery and then one week brute forcing the hand sanitizer system into existence.

Rigali said it’s not only a good service, but it helps keep the lights on and makes sure they don't have to lay off employees.

Instead, the company has hired six more people to help their initial team of four fill bottles by hand -- those new employees were also recently laid off from the hospitality industry.

They've made about 25,000 bottles so far, the co-founders said, and they'll keep going as long as they need to.

Some of the bottles, which at last check cost $6.75 for 100 ml, have been donated to nonprofits and some have been sold wholesale, the co-founders said.

“We're a company of four people and making this transition into a kind of like industrial-commercial hand sanitizer company within a span of a week has had a couple challenges, to say the least,” Rigali said.

The co-founders said government officials were helpful in helping them get FDA approval as a bottler of hand sanitizer within a day.

"Everyone got out of the way for not just us but anyone capable of making a necessary ingredient," Chereskin said. "I like that story because most of the time we talk about government being obstructionist and in this particular case they did a great job."

The hand sanitizers sell out quickly and were sold out during the interview with NBC 7, but the co-founders say to check the website for new inventory.

“We're not on the front lines like a lot of the nurses and doctors and the first responders but to be able to help out in the smallest way possible feels great,” Rigali said.

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