Social Still donates house-made sanitizer to local establishments. The distillery has produced 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer so far. (Courtesy of Adam Flatt )

Local distillery produces hand sanitizer during national shortages

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Social Still, a micro-distillery and restaurant in South Bethlehem, is using its resources to produce hand sanitizer in response to national shortages during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Social Still is donating its house-made hand sanitizer to places like local prisons, the police department and the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

“We were able to change our production over to hand sanitizer, able to individually bottle it, and we’re able to donate some in larger quantities,” said Adam Flatt, a co-owner of Social Still. “So, it was just a nice natural fit for us to be able to do what we can and then also be able to offer it to people in the emergency services.” 

Hand sanitizer is donated in large batches to Bethlehem’s emergency services and in small batches to organizations like doctor’s offices.

When the Lehigh Valley Health Network reaches out to Social Still, the brewery is able to donate high-proof alcohol within about half an hour. 

“At a time of need, when we have the expertise and some of the equipment and some of the know-how, it was a perfect time for us to respond and do what we can for the community,” Flatt said. 

Social Still follows the World Health Organization’s recipe, which calls for 95 percent ethanol, which they had on site, and glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, which they were able to order.

Flatt said their main challenge in production has been supply chain as a result of a worldwide shortage. Bottles and lids are harder to gather, which Flatt and his team did not anticipate.

“Understanding whose needs are more important than others is such a challenging aspect of what we’re doing here,” Flatt said. “I would say in the last five days, we’ve had close to 500 requests from individuals that have health concerns at home to large organizations like LVHN and the city of Bethlehem and Allentown.”

So far, Social Still has produced close to 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer ranging from 2 to 8 ounces. 

Social Still made a donation to the Lehigh University Police Department, which Assistant Chief of Police Christopher Houtz said was very helpful. 

“Right now, everybody’s struggling to keep resources,” Houtz said. “We’re cleaning cars every single day after everybody gets in, and if we come into contact with anybody, we’re obviously using hand sanitizer and things like that to try to stay healthy and make sure everything’s good.”

The goal is to give the sanitizers to the people who need it most, and that’s a decision Flatt said he never wanted to make, but has to now.

Christmas City Spirits, located on the North Side, saw many distilleries starting to switch over and join Social Still, Blue Steel Vodka, 8 Oaks and other local distilleries in the effort to supply sanitizer to front line workers. 

Christmas City Spirits was particularly inspired by its distiller’s grandmother, a nurse during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, who soaked her mask in the rye whiskey she made.

“We’ve gotten probably two or 300 requests for hand sanitizer, and to avoid any hysteria, we’re not offering it to the general public,” said Breet Biggs, the co-owner of Christmas City Spirits. “We’re just distributing it to organizational channels and organizations like the Bethlehem Police Department or St Luke’s.”

So far, they’ve distributed 52 gallons to St. Luke’s and the Bethlehem Police Department, and they hope to distribute another 80 gallons this week. 

Like Christmas City Spirits, Social Still remains an essential service. It currently has a curbside service and have implemented touchless ordering online. 

Many customers are contributing extra tips to Social Still to support the hand sanitizer project, Flatt said. 

“People have been more than generous and done everything they can to help out, and that’s the cool part about it — watching the community come together and really solve a problem that looks like our big business and big government wasn’t able to solve and trying to solve it without them,” Flatt said.

Social Still is located at 530 E. 3rd Street in South Bethlehem.

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