How a Chicago distillery became a key component in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

9 months agoKarli Bell

Throughout the country, there are hundreds of thousands of first responders on the frontline, fighting COVID-19 and helping patients suffering from this virus. Community members, including right here in Chicago, have also stepped up to serve others. We at Marquee Sports Network want to recognize all of these Hometown Heroes for their efforts.

KOVAL Distillery in Ravenswood saw their business get hit pretty quickly when COVID-19 started to spread globally. They serve international customers and clients. When Italy was hit and as it spread west, their international business came to a grinding halt. When it came to the United States and eventually Chicago, KOVAL wanted to find a way to help frontline workers and first responders

“Within the distilling community, we actually had a possible opportunity to make a difference. That was that we have equipment for making hand sanitizer,” KOVAL Distillery President Sonat Birnecker Hart said.

However, there were some legalities blocking that process. According to federal law, licenses for distilleries are only allowed to produce alcohol for consumption. Because of KOVAL’s license, they had to push to get measures added onto their original license to be legally allowed to produce alcohol for other uses, such as hand sanitizer. Then, on March 16, Birnecker Hart received an email that gave the legal go-ahead to start producing hand sanitizer. Just three days later, the distillery started delivering hand sanitizer to the Chicago Police Department.

 “We thought that we’d only donate a few batches. What ended up happening was that we received such an outpouring from members of the community that needed it badly and could not find it anywhere,” Birnecker Hart said.

As the business grew, other local distilleries, breweries and delivery companies chipped in to help deliver hand sanitizer across Chicago. By April, KOVAL had a full crew ready to help deliver the now almost 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer

“It’s not like I had a whole team of drivers ready [initially}, but at the end of the day, I did because we had so many people in the community that offered to help,” Birnecker Hart said.

Their international fans even chipped in to their cause. KOVAL Distillery set up a GoFundMe page to help fund the project beyond the first few weeks of the shelter-in-place order. This page has surpassed $70,000 as of May 8.

Birnecker Hart said, “We had fans of ours all over the US, Canada, England, Taiwan…They donated for our efforts. So really it’s not just Chicago coming together. It’s the whole world coming together, which is really heartwarming.”

If you would like to donate to KOVAL Distillery’s efforts, you can click here.

If you would like to nominate our next Hometown Hero, you can click here.

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