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A North Vancouver distillery is making free hand sanitizer

Amid countless stories of people trying to do good during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a distillery in North Vancouver is getting in the spirit.

Amid countless stories of people trying to do good during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a distillery in North Vancouver is getting in the spirit.

For the past several days, Sons of Vancouver Distillery on Crown Street has been making free hand sanitizer using the byproducts that naturally occur in the distillation process.

With such high demand for hand sanitizer as people consider proper handwashing etiquette in order to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, the distillery, which is known for its craft vodka and amaretto products, has been letting people swing by and grab up to 100 millilitres for themselves, as long as they bring their own container or bottle to take it home with them.  

“There’s people that need it, especially in our community,” said distillery co-founder Richard Klaus. “It’s definitely a challenge.”

North Vancouver has essentially been ground zero for the COVID-19 crisis in the province. Of the 10 people who have so far died from the disease in B.C., nine of them have been the elderly residents of Lynn Valley Care Centre, a long-term care facility.

Along with self-isolating and social distancing, the provincial Ministry of Health has been drilling home the message that people should be washing their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, and using hand sanitizer in other situations, in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Klaus said the hand sanitizer solution they’ve been producing for almost week can be applied directly onto the skin or even blended with aloe vera in order to make a sanitizing hand gel.

The distillery has already dished out more than 100 litres of its homemade hand sanitizer, according to the company’s other founder, James Lester.

“I knew there was a hand sanitizer shortage, but to be honest I didn’t know the extent at all. I completely underestimated it,” said Lester. “We used to joke about if the end of the world ever came we have lots of sanitizer and tradeable goods – but it was only ever a joke.”

While many bars and craft beer tasting rooms across the province have been shuttering in order to obey a social distancing requirement set by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Lester points out that many distilleries across North America have been seeing demand for hand sanitizer skyrocket.

“If you Google ‘distillery hand sanitizer’ right now you’re going to find like probably 20 stories of different distilleries doing this,” said Lester.
While not strictly sanctioned by Health Canada, who sets the regulations for what gets labelled hand sanitizer, Klaus says their distillery has been fast-tracked for approval as demand for the product skyrockets across the country.

On Saturday, dozens of people stopped by to grab themselves some hand sanitizer – and maybe a bottle of vodka – to go. While Klaus and Lester have been happy to provide individuals with this service, it’s been particularly sobering for them to witness how great the demand for the product is on a wider scale.

The business partners say numerous institutions across Metro Vancouver have been in touch about getting hand sanitizer products from them, and the team has been busy packaging up hand sanitizer to give out to these larger organizations.

“A North Vancouver care home emailed us and said that they were down to two bottles of hand sanitizer and they couldn’t get any more and wanted to ask if we could make some,” said Lester.

Updates about Sons of Vancouver Distillery’s ongoing hand sanitizer project can be found on their Facebook page.