Blinking Owl Distillery In Santa Ana Plans to Make Hand Sanitizer Amid Outbreak

Photograph by Ralph Palumbo

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and shortages of supplies in certain areas, the first distillery in Orange County plans to switch gears from crafting booze to crafting hand sanitizer.

Tasked by a government agency, pioneering owners Brian and Robin Christenson will produce a hand-cleaning solution that will be FDA-approved, abide by World Health Organization specifications, and contain alcohol, glycerin, and hydrogen peroxide.

“We are working out the details now, but we are expecting for them to purchase a huge order,” Robin Christenson said. “And the idea would be for them to distribute to those who need it most: homeless, hospital workers, police, etc.”

About 7,000 2-ounce bottles are expected to be ordered, and production will begin soon. The sanitizer will include Blinking Owl’s signature whimsical branding.

Health officials have implored communities to increase hand-washing and sanitization efforts to slow the spread of a virus that causes COVID-19, a viral infection marked by its attack on lung function. Sanitizers containing alcohol are believed effective, especially in working situations where hand-washing with soap and water isn’t always possible.

“Even if the government agency backs out, we have big suppliers who need it and have asked to buy hand sanitizer from us,” said Christenson. “So that’s where we are. We never would have thought that we would be making hand sanitizer, but we are very happy that we can make something that’s so very needed right now and just to keep moving forward.”

In accordance with the Orange County public health order, the distillery closed Tuesday and halted direct bottle sales.

“Bottle sales were through the roof last Friday and Saturday,” said Christenson. “The ironic thing is our restaurant plans were submitted to health right before the O.C. mandate came out. We do still hope to emerge from this with a restaurant.”

The Christensons are self-proclaimed “experts” at being shut down and coming up with creative ways to stay afloat. Late last year, the distillery’s tasting room was shut down by state alcohol officials for violating the 1.5-ounce serving limit.

“We just want to survive,” said Christenson. “It’s so crazy to think that this is our second shutdown in less than three months. But we know what to expect, better than most, we think. We feel for everyone going through this right now. We did furlough all of our bar staff this week.”

You can still purchase bottles from local retailers.

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