A craft distillery in Courtenay says its future could be in jeopardy due to a federal government policy on the supply of COVID-19 hand sanitizer.
Wayward Distillery says its alcohol sales are down during the pandemic, but it can’t access government wage and rent subsidies because it sells a small amount of hand sanitizer.
Wayward has over 350,000 litres of hand sanitizer it is hoping to sell.
Owner Dave Brimacombe says the distillery ramped up production of sanitizer in mid-March when his alcohol sales plummeted.
“So March 17 we donated our first batch of sanitizer to first responders and never looked back,” he said.
He was providing free sanitizer to law enforcement and fire departments and was also selling his product to the Loblaws grocery chain across Canada.
Then, the Federal Government secured large contracts for sanitizer from multi-national companies.
“And what that effectively did is it gutted the domestic market so that the entire supply chain we built was superfluous now,” said Brimacombe.
The demand for Brimacombe’s product dried up overnight.
Add insult to injury and now the small amount of sanitizer he does sell makes him ineligible for federal government wage and rent subsidies.
Courtenay-Alberni Member of Parliament Gord Johns raised this issue during Question Period in the House of Commons.
“He gave away tens of thousands of dollars of sanitizer for free and sold some at cost so even though his profit went down his revenue shows as up and the government says he doesn’t qualify for any government support programs,” said Johns.
“I would be happy to work with the honourable member about this business,” replied Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The Finance Minister is expected to put Wayward on a federal list of preferred suppliers but Johns says Wayward needs access to emergency programs as well.
Dave Brimacombe says he supports how the government has handled the pandemic but feels distilleries like his which were among the first to step up and produce sanitizer are now falling through the cracks.
“We are going month to month and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in January, February or March but every day is critical for us right now,” he said.