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Distilleries Approved to Make Sanitizer, But Questions Abound

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Image credit: Detroit City Distillery

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is giving the green light for Michigan distilleries to make hand sanitizer. Some distillers say there’s still details to be figured out.

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Michigan distilleries are readying to make hand sanitizer instead of spirits.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is giving the green light for Michigan distilleries to make hand sanitizer. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau relaxed its rules around production as hospitals and other health services brace for a shortage of supply. The notice follows a relaxation of rules from the federal government with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

We need resources now to keep employees on, to procure materials, whether that’s to make the product we usually do or to make hand sanitizer.” - Michael Forsyth, Detroit City Distillery

But some distillers say while they are ready to make sanitizer, there’s still details to be figured out.

Detroit City Distillery during normal times.Courtesy of Detroit City Distillery
Courtesy of Detroit City Distillery

Detroit City Distillery during normal times.

Michael Forsyth is the co-owner of Detroit City Distillery, which usually makes gin and vodka. He says while his company wants to help, he also needs to address cash flow. 

We need resources now to keep employees on, to procure materials, whether that’s to make the product we usually do or to make hand sanitizer,” says Forsythe.

Forsyth says payroll tax breaks and loans are little help, because his company is losing money in its current situation. He says addressing the lack of communication with the government and health services will be a critical step to providing hand sanitizer for the state. 

David Landrum is the owner of Two James Spirits in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. He says distilleries are still trying to figure out what’s going on as they deal with the economic fall out from the coronavirus pandemic. 

When this all went down, we had to lay off close to 30 employees, which is a person in my position’s worst nightmare,” says Landrum.

Landrum says while Two James has plenty of ethanol to make hand sanitizer, its been difficult to obtain other parts of the product like aloe vera and containers.

He says figuring out contracts for places with need is critical to making the new business model viable. 

 

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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