Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Little Rock distillers hit with late federal charge for making sanitizer during pandemic


LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Local distilleries that started producing hand sanitizer during the pandemic are now facing $14,000 fees from the Food and Drug Administration. 

The FDA made the announcement on December 29 without any advance notice. 

“It’s like a slap in the face for helping out,” Phil Brandon, Founder of Rocktown Distillery in Little Rock, said of the new fee. 

Brandon said his company said they helped many in the community back in March when Arkansans could not find hand sanitizer at the stores. 

“Stores sold out of hand sanitizer. The demand for it was enormous– we had lines out the door every morning,” he recalled. “Our employees were scared but we came to work– we made the sanitizer.”

The FDA says distilleries across the country that made hand sanitizer must pay the $14,000 fee by February 11, 2021, as part of the Over-The-Counter Monograph Drug Use Fee Program.

In order for distillers to avoid the fee for 2022, they must cease producing and selling the product by December 31, 2020.

“We provided it to homeless shelters, the hospitals, the nursing homes, and also sold it to the general public. And this is kind of the thanks we get,” Brandon said. 

He hopes the FDA will reconsider and local lawmakers will urge the government to waive this fee as his local business tries to stay afloat amid the pandemic. 

“I want to help out and do the right thing, but it is so strange they would suddenly out of the blue say this is a fee we’d have to pay,” Brandon said. 

On December 31, Representative French Hill tweeted that he plans to work with his colleagues in Congress to correct this problem and reverse the negative impact on distillers across the nation.

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