British Columbia

Police called to distillery after 'hundreds' of vehicles line up for free hand sanitizer, reports of fights

A Kelowna, B.C., distillery's hand-sanitizer giveaway was shut down this weekend when police were called to clear "hundreds" of vehicles lining up and blocking the road, while the distillery also reported fights breaking out.

Giveaway event at Kelowna, B.C., business became a victim of its own success a couple of hours after it began

In a Facebook post, Forbidden Spirits Distilling Co. said fights broke out during its first-ever 'Sanitizer Saturdays' event over the Easter weekend. (Forbidden Spirits Distilling Co./Facebook)

A Kelowna, B.C., distillery's hand-sanitizer giveaway was shut down this weekend when fights allegedly broke out and police were called to clear a huge traffic jam. 

Vodka maker Forbidden Spirits Distilling Co. held its first "Sanitary Saturday" this weekend, a drive-thru event offering up to four litres of free hand sanitizer for anyone who brought their own container.

Barely a couple of hours after it began, it became a victim of its own success. 

Kelowna RCMP confirmed they were called to the property just after 2 p.m. PT for a traffic complaint.

When they arrived, officers found "hundreds" of vehicles snaking down a rural road, lining up for the sanitizer. 

"These vehicles were blocking the roadway," RCMP said in an email. "The free giveaway was suspended in order to get traffic flowing."

Blair Wilson, co-founder and president of Forbidden Spirits, said people were cutting each other off in an effort to get their hands on some of the 2,000 litres of sanitizer the distillery produced for the event.

"I was told there were a thousand cars backed up and clogging intersections," Wilson said.

In Instagram and Facebook posts, the distillery said the police had to shut down the giveaway due to "high traffic and public fights."

Around 1,600 litres of sanitizer was given out before the event was shut down, Wilson added. 

Ethanol is a product of the distillation process and also a main ingredient in hand sanitizer. Wilson said his distillery felt compelled to help with the community's response to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic the best way it could.

He said the distillery will try the event again next Saturday, with a numbered system to try to keep traffic under control.

Until then, Wilson said the company will deliver hand sanitizer to nearby long-term care homes and hospitals. 

"We have it in abundance, we might as well share and hand it out to the community," he said. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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