CHICAGO (CBS) — The coronavirus continues to hurt both people and businesses – but here is a story of both fighting back.
As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported Sunday night, a Lake County distillery is adapting to the threat of COVID-19.
Restaurants and bars are closed, and people are under a stay-at-home order throughout Illinois. The obstacles are many, but a few are starting to see opportunities.
The sign may say “28 Mile Vodka Company,” but there is an update.
“28 Mile Distilling Company – actually, we just changed today,” said owner Eric Falberg.
Falberg said the Highwood bar and restaurant, like other eateries, had to close its doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But the business, which once made 700 bottles of gin and vodka, is hoping to be in the business of making bottles of 28 Mile hand sanitizer. Their first customers are first responders on the front lines.
“They literally had none,” Falberg said. “Some of the sheriff’s police coming here had nothing left, so we got together whatever we could to make it.”
Falberg said they’re following the recipe provided by the World Health Organization.
And distillers are uniquely set up for such a mission, because that recipe includes a high-proof alcohol they would normally make for their gin.
Meantime, others are donating to the fight.
“Masks are in need, and we’ve had a surplus from working on construction projects, and I just thought it was the right things to do,” one man said.
A Barrington doctor is collecting N-95 masks used in things like housing rehab.
The items that are in short supply are now in his trunk, and they will help protect health care workers from patients with the virus.
“We’re running them right though all these columns,” the doctor said.
Back at the distillery, Falberg said they are already supplying first responders in departments like the Lake County Sheriff’s office and Glencoe.
On Wednesday, they plan to ramp up production to include 16-ounce bottles for purchase in nearby grocery stores.
Their goal is to produce 700 per hour. And the adaptation of 28 Mile means not only keeping bartenders and wait staff employed as hand sanitizer staff, but they could even hire more in this virus fight.
“Well it’s like going to war, like wartime,” Falberg said. “so you’re needing more people you’re just altering what you’re doing to help people.”
The 28 Mile distillery is one of a handful in Illinois turning booze into sanitizer. The Koval distillery in Ravenswood, for one, is doing the same.