From spirits to sanitizer

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ROSCOE, NY — Part of the $2 trillion stimulus package, signed by President Donald Trump on March 27, makes alcohol companies that are producing hand sanitizer exempt from paying excise taxes on that alcohol between December 31, 2019 and January 1, 2021. That’s “pretty amazing” news for Brian Facquet, owner of the local vodka, bourbon and gin producer Prohibition Distillery. Removing this tax was something Facquet petitioned for, even though he says, “We were going to [make hand sanitizer] one way or another.”

Producing sanitizer is a “completely different operation,” he said. “It’s turning from fine dining to doing 8,000 meals in one sitting.” He also compared it to the difference between being a custom car manufacturer to becoming Henry Ford. Since the pandemic hit, Prohibition Distillery has removed all of the unnecessary equipment in its facility to make room for producing hand sanitizer in bulk.

“I don’t even remember making alcohol anymore, I’m here to make sanitizer, that’s what our country needs, that’s what the hospitals need,” he said.

Facquet, who is also the vice president of the New York State Distiller’s Guild, said his goal is to “fill the void” and help supply industries that are most affected by hand sanitizer shortages, like hospitals and food processors. “I don’t care about the retail at this point for sanitizer, I didn’t get into business to make sanitizer for retail stores,” he said. “I’m changing my business to make something for the public health concern.”

Among other products, like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a run on products like Purell. Facquet also said that there have been companies promising to produce hand sanitizer but only doing so in small amounts; this has caused a great deal of confusion, according to Facquet.

Such an upheaval in the companies’ status quo has incurred a great deal of risk for Prohibition Distillery. “I’ve changed my operation, I’ve put myself in financial harm to turn this whole thing upside down,” he said, adding that as of March 27, he had yet to receive a purchase order. Part of the struggle for Facquet is competing to purchase the necessary materials in bulk before bigger companies do.

“Big companies are poaching all of our orders,” he said. “All of the small guys that are actually equipped to do this, we’re getting our stuff bought out from underneath us by other companies, because there’s all kinds of secondary people that are going through and hoarding.”

While Prohibition employees continue mobilizing—tasting room manager Alyssa Murphy said they have been working “around the clock”—Facquet urges average consumers to stop buying up hand sanitizer in large quantities, telling them to instead stay at home and wash their hands with soap and water. 

“If you do that, then the people that need it can get it,” he said. “This is something that our country’s going to need for a while, and I can put my dreams and hopes on hold just to make sure that there are people there tomorrow that support us.” 



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