Dave Brimacombe and Wayward Distillery staff members pictured with mountains of ethanol and sanitizer. Photo supplied

Dave Brimacombe and Wayward Distillery staff members pictured with mountains of ethanol and sanitizer. Photo supplied

B.C. distillery stuck with a warehouse full of sanitizer

Courtenay’s Wayward Distillery donated about $75,000 worth, now can’t sell enough to cover expenses

A B.C. distillery owner spent nearly $600,000 on ethanol, one of the ingredients he uses to make hand sanitizer, which he distributed free of charge during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the ethanol is sitting untouched in storage.

Gord Johns, the MP for the Courtenay-Alberni riding on Vancouver Island, blames the federal government for flooding the market with sanitizer purchased from other countries, which has driven down the price.

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He said Dave Brimacombe, owner of Courtenay’s Wayward Distillery, had donated about $75,000 worth of sanitizer, then started selling it at cost to cover expenses. As sales increased, he did not qualify for the federal wage subsidy or the rent program because it is revenue measured.

“His profit dropped massively, but his revenue went up, so therefore he’s getting no government support,” Johns said. “This guy is getting kicked while he’s down.”

Johns spoke about Brimacombe’s plight during Question Period in the House of Commons. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said she would be pleased to be in touch with Brimacombe to learn more about his situation. She also said government has a range of programs to support businesses, such as wage subsidy and rent support.

Brimacombe said he can either stop selling sanitizer to collect the wage subsidy, or keep selling at a loss.

“I’m sitting on sanitizer which I manufactured and paid for months ago,” he said. “I’m selling inventory at a loss so that I can have cash flow required to survive. Every gallon I send out the door is a loss to the company.

“As far as we know, we were the first on this side of the country to be donating hand sanitizer,” he added.

“The prime minister said, ‘We need hand sanitizer.’ One of the first we donated to was the Victoria Police Department. We saw the need, and we pivoted hard. We were putting out 15 to 20,000 litres a week. I did five years worth of production in a month.”

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