Local distillery, coffee chain making hand sanitizer for DC government

Barrels are seen here at Republic Restoratives. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Republic Restoratives Distiller in D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood and local coffee chain Compass Coffee have been commissioned by the District to produce thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.

Republic Restoratives and Compass Coffee will initially each produce 1,000 gallons each.

The District will use the new supply of hand sanitizer to give to the city’s front-line workers, including first responders, health workers and critical government personnel.

The Bowser administration is also pursuing additional orders of sanitizer from other local businesses.

“We’re proud that the city is turning to small businesses like ours during crisis,” said Pia Carusone, co-founder of Republic Restoratives, the first female-owned distillery in D.C., which opened in 2016.

“That is the kind of innovation and leadership that we need right now. So we’ll continue making as much hand sanitizer as fast as we can until we get through this shortage,” she said.

Why is a distillery tooled for making hand sanitizer?

“The hardest to acquire ingredient is high-proof spirit, which as a consumer you can’t just buy at a liquor store. Because we’re a distillery, we have plenty of that and we have the ability to make or acquire more,” Carusone told WTOP.

“We follow the World Health Organization’s recipe, which is about 122-proof spirit, vegetable glycerine, hydrogen peroxide and distilled water.”

With much of their sales to the wholesale hospitality industry, their business has been devastated, though Carusone is optimistic, especially given what they sell.

“We know that liquor will be a durable business through national tragedies, so the sort of theory of the case for us is that we know people are going to be consuming spirits during this pandemic. But if we can convince people that supporting their local distillery could make a difference, I think we’ll be able to survive,” she said.

Republic Restoratives had already been making small batches of hand sanitizer, including it with online orders of bottles, available for home delivery or curbside pickup in D.C.

For Compass Coffee, co-founder Harrison Suarez said the order puts its people back to work, and gets critical supplies to first responders and essential personnel.

“We’re honored to be part of rebuilding our city,” he said.

The mayor’s office did not disclose financial terms of the orders placed with both businesses.

Murlarkey Distillery in Bristow, Virginia, is also manufacturing hand sanitizer for first responders in Prince William and Fairfax Counties.


Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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