Distillery’s genius idea to keep workers in a job
A TWEED distillery forced to lay off two dozen workers in the coronavirus crisis has turned to sanitiser production to keep full-time staff employed and address a shortage.
Husk Distillery owner Paul Messenger said business at the Tumbulgum venue just south of the border nosedived due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions.
"Fifty-five per cent of our revenue base closed down overnight," he said. "All of the duty free and on-premises bars and restaurants. Our cellar door, front of house, is shut down.
"We're in the same boat as everyone else and we've unfortunately had to put off quite a number of casuals from the front-of-house operations.
"We'll be certainly keeping closely in touch with those people and looking forward to the day when they can all come back home."
Husk has radically altered its offerings to include takeaway food, alongside award-winning alcohol produced on site, but it's still not enough to keep everyone on the books.
Mr Messenger said Husk already produced sanitiser from sugar cane to clean the premises.
Sanitiser has been in short supply in Tweed and Mr Messenger spotted a gap in the market.
Thousands of bottles have already been distributed to police, fire and disability services.
"The demand is going through the roof and people just can't get enough," Mr Messenger said.
"Supplies are pretty tight so distillers all over the country are stepping up to meet the market there. We're pumping it out, getting out as much as we can make."
As of Tuesday, Husk was struggling to fill a huge number of orders and had ramped up production.
Mr Messenger said the distillery's "absolute objective" was simply to stay afloat.
Distillers across the county have switched up operations to tackle the sanitiser shortage, including the famed Bundaberg Rum Distillery.
The country's oldest distillery, Beenleigh Rum Distillery, has also turned its focus to hand sanitiser, using existing staff and production lines.
Minister for Manufacturing Cameron Dick said his department reached out to distilleries to ensure a steady supply of sanitiser.
"We want to see more of this and are ready and eager to work with and support manufacturers who can help us get more products into our hospitals, our schools and our supermarkets and stores," he said.
"This is the time to think laterally and broadly about how you and your business can adapt and contribute to our state's COVID-19 coronavirus response."
Beenleigh Rum Distillery owner and Bickfords Group Angelo Kotses managing director said: "We originally planned a small run of only 1500 cartons, but when the Queensland Government approached us we were more than happy to help by providing hand sanitiser for essential needs throughout the state."
Originally published as Distillery's genius idea to keep workers in a job