Pennsylvania distilleries migrate from liquor to hand sanitizer amid coronavirus outbreak


Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works in Middletown has switched operations to help supply hand and surface sanitizer for EMS and hospital crews. York Daily Record

It’s a hundred years after Prohibition, and booze is being hoarded for a slightly different reason than fuel at a local speakeasy. 

Distillers throughout the region are using their expertise to provide first responders with additional hand sanitizer as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread

After the pandemic led to a statewide shutdown of bars and restaurants, Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works co-owners Pat Delvin and Tony DeLellis realized they had to pivot to help. 

“Pat said to me, if this is going to take us down, we’re going to do as much good as we can before it does,” DeLellis said. 

DeLellis had to lay off 42 employees as the limitations to dine-in service were enforced. He estimates they’ve lost nearly 95 percent of revenue — something everyone in the industry is dealing with, he said. 

Related: Has coronavirus changed restaurant life forever? How the outbreak hits hospitality hardest

In the short term, his team is working to provide local EMS, fire and police departments with hand sanitizer, along with additional surface sanitizer for hospitals around the region. 

Tattered Flag is still offering take-out bottle and food service, but they’ve restricted hand sanitizer to first responders only and are urging residents to help donate for the cause. 

Related: York County restaurants are open during Coronavirus outbreak. Where to order delivery from

“We’re losing money not making (liquor). Eventually we’ll be run dry,” DeLellis said. “The biggest thing we need is people to donate to help us keep doing what we’re doing.” 

DeLellis estimates they’ve made approximately 400 to 600 gallons of sanitizer since last week, but because of limitations in the supply chain, they will be unable to make any more hand sanitizer until a new shipment arrives next Monday. 

Before coronavirus, DeLellis could expect a shipment within two days. Part of that is an increasing demand in the necessary ingredients to make hospital-grade sanitizer, aside from alcohol: hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. 

“It was something on the radar soon as things started getting a little more serious,” said Dan Healy, co-owner of Midstate Distillery in Harrisburg.

Healy has been working and communicating with several distilleries around the region to coordinate resources to produce hand sanitizer including Tattered Flag, Crostwater Distillery in Lewisberry, Dead Lightning in New Cumberlandand Hook & Flask in Carlisle.   

Despite their good Samaritan efforts, Healy acknowledged his team is just breaking even supplying hospitals and emergency personnel with sanitizer. 

“Our revenue stream has pretty much ceased,” said David Stein of Hidden Still Distillery in Lebanon. 

Stein and his team are unable to produce hand sanitizer at the moment, but they are providing an orange-scented surface sanitizer for retirement and elderly care facilities around Lebanon County, including Sprang Crest. In addition, he’s making neutral alcohol in the hopes of aiding his fellow distilleries who have the additional ingredients to make large quantities of hand sanitizer. 

“I hope we can help supply (other distilleries) until we can get hands on glycerin and hydrogen peroxide for hand sanitizer,” he said.

Stoll & Wolfe Whiskey in Lititz aims to begin making hand sanitizer next week, and nearby Thistle Finch in Lancaster is using its facilities to make surface sanitizer. Lake House Distilling Co. in Wanynesboro and Hanover Distilling Co. in Hanover are also making hand sanitizer.

“We’re asking the public to stop, stopping in. If the public can stay home and wash their hands, then people who need the hand sanitizer (first responders) can do what they can,” DeLellis said. 

Neil Strebig is the food & drink reporter for the York Daily Record and curator for the York on the Move newsletter. He can be reached at, 717-825-6582 or via Twitter @neilStrebig

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