When the team behind Republic Restoratives started making hand sanitizer last week it was as a means for the Ivy City distillery to survive. Small containers were promoted as freebies with the purchase of a bottle of vodka or whiskey. Since then, they’ve been bombarded by calls from police, EMS, hospitals, and dozens of businesses looking to get in on the supply. So, owner Pia Carusone called a friend in DC government for guidance on how to best put their resources to work. The end result: Republic Restoratives has been commissioned by the city to produce an initial batch of 1,000 gallons that will be distributed among the District’s frontline workers.
“They gave us the order to do it as fast as we possibly could,” Carusone says. “We take that as a serious request, so that’s taking priority at the distillery right now.”
Distilleries across the country have pivoted from booze to sanitizer in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the shortage of cleaning supplies. Regulatory agencies have loosened the rules to allow them to do so. Locally, One Eight Distilling and Cotton & Reed have also started making their own hand sanitizers.
“[DC government procurement officials] said we’d much rather get hand sanitizer from a small local business anyway,” Carusone says. “And I let them know this allows us to keep our staff a little longer.”
Republic Restoratives is not currently taking orders from private businesses or individuals. But it will continue to offer free two-ounce sanitizers with bottle purchases while they have supplies. The distillery started on-demand, direct-to-consumer delivery last week. The one hitch: There’s been a run on sanitizer bottles with so many distilleries getting in on the action.
“We’re going to certainly try as long as we can,” Carusone says. “But I feel obligated to the people on the frontlines who need it. Frankly, if you’re social distancing, you don’t necessarily need hand sanitizer right now. You need toilet paper maybe more than you need hand sanitizer.”