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Virginia Beach distillery trading in spirits for sanitizer to help with shortage

Posted at 2:03 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 22:45:13-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - One of the most in demand items as the coronavirus continues to spark fear is hand sanitizer.

You will have a tough time finding it - so this why one Virginia Beach distillery is stepping up with a building full of alcohol. They are getting creative and trading in the drinks for disinfectants.

The Chesapeake Bay Distillery in Virginia Beach has become more like a chemistry lab in the last couple of days.

"We can't make a mask, but if there is anything we can do to help, we are here," said owner Chris Richeson.

Richeson and his production team have been playing mad scientist of late. They're used to producing their prized vodka, gin and tequila, but they are now shifting gears, mixing up sanitizer instead of spirits.

"We have the raw material right here. The key is the proof of the active ingredient, ethyl alcohol," he explained.

Richeson has massive totes of it in the back of the distillery, ready to make the hot, in-demand commodity.

"It's an alternative source of revenue. Yes, that is great, but more importantly it gives people out here something they can use to stay clean," said Richeson.

He says restaurants and bars aren't buying his liquor these days, which is about 15% of his income, and then his tasting room is no longer serving, which is about 25% of his revenue.

"This is interesting to say the least, but we are always looking for a solution. As a small business, we gotta be agile," said Richeson.

Richeson also says production of the hand santizer also keeps him from having to lay off employees.

Production of the sanitizer will start this week, thanks to an order signed Wednesday by Virginia ABC.

"We will give some away, we will sell some, but really we just want people to have hand sanitizer and disinfectant available if store shelves are empty," he explained.

The distillery is also working to produce a surface disinfectant, but that has yet to be legalized by the government.

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