The Texas Tail Distillery is in the heart of the economic crater left by the coronavirus on the island.
Bars and restaurants to the east and west of the distillery along Seawall Boulevard have closed their doors to customers as part of the city’s efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The doors of the distillery, 4116 Seawall Blvd., are open. But the only thing you can buy from the year-and-half-old establishment isn’t something you would or should drink.
This week, the distillery began producing hand sanitizer from the ethyl alcohol it would normally use to make vodka, said Nick Droege, the president of the distillery.
“We’re strictly making hand sanitizer right now,” Droege said. The distillery has actually had to enlist more help to produce the sanitizer, he said.
The distillery is producing up to 500 gallons of FDA-standard hand sanitizer a day, Droege said. He’s selling to local companies and to local police agencies, including the University of Texas Medical Branch Police Department, and may soon offer the sanitizer to people who walk up to the business.
“We’ve increased all of our part-time employees to full-time,” Droege said. “Being able to sell it made us be able to make sure our employees are taken care of.”
Texas Tail isn’t is the only distillery in Texas pivoting to making hand cleaners in the coronavirus crisis.
Earlier this month, before the coronavirus outbreak reached pandemic levels, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which produces in Austin is the oldest distillery in Texas, created some amusing buzz by sending out a press release notifying people that its namesake product could not be used as hand sanitizer.
Less than three weeks later, Tito’s announced it would convert its operations to make as many as 24 tons of hand sanitizer.
More locally, a business in Santa Fe also has reduced the number of products it sells in the name of making more hand cleanser.
Before the pandemic, Santa Fe Soap Factory, 4809 Ave. L, was centered on selling natural, hand-crafted soaps, owner Kristine Melton said.
But as the crisis grew, the business switched to making only a single product, an FDA guidance-compliant hand cleanser, Melton said.
“Business has actually picked up because of that,” Melton said. “Before that, a lot of people were hitting the grocery stores and we needed to figure something else to keep us afloat.”
One of the customers buying the store’s new hand cleanser is the city of Santa Fe, Melton said. The product is being distributed to the city’s police officers.
Because the soap factory is making cleaning products, it’s considered an essential business and plans to remain open during the countywide stay-at-home order, Melton said.
Texas Tail Distillery had the same plan, although other factors might get in the way. Although Texas Tail has all the equipment it needs to make the hand sanitizer, Droege was encountering a shortage of bottles to contain the product.
“Spray or pumps or whatever, that’s what been hard to fine,” Droege said.