Sanitizer giveaway shut down over fist fights, traffic congestion

Fights mar giveaway

What was meant as a goodwill gesture deteriorated into fist fights and complaints over traffic congestion on the rural streets of East Kelowna.

Owners of Forbidden Spirits Distilling offered free hand sanitizer to people in the community who wanted it this past Saturday.

The only catch, you had to come to their base of operation on Wallace Hill Road, and bring your own container.

Hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles lined up to take advantage of the giveaway, too many for the rural roads of East Kelowna to handle.

"Some people showed up at 9 a.m.," said company president Blair Wilson. of the giveaway that was supposed to begin at noon.

He said he sent those people away, but by 11, there were about 25 vehicles in line.

He open the giveaway early, but said as each hour passed, the line continued to grow.

"At 2:30, the RCMP came for the first time and said there were 1,000 cars lined up."

Police conducted some traffic control, but Wilson says they came back a half hour later and shut it down.

"Due to high traffic and public fights, the police had to shut down the process, however, next week we are going to find a better way to control traffic. Our apologies that we could not continue our process today," he posted on Facebook.

While he did have to shut down early, Wilson says he was able to give away most of the 2,000 litres he had available.

"And," he says, "we are able to connect with a lot of different groups and organizations, and now this week, we'll be able to deliver hand sanitizer to them directly."

Wilson says he will be delivering hand sanitizer to the hospital and some senior centres in the city. He also received a call from the RCMP asking for some.

The company will conduct another giveaway this Saturday beginning at noon, but says they will be more organized.

"We'll give numbers to vehicles, and hopefully we'll be able to get through 500.

"Once we get to 500, we'll have flag people telling anyone else not to bother lining up."

Forbidden Spirits has retooled its operation from making premium vodka to hand sanitizer in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The basic ingredient is ethanol and, as a craft distiller, we're fermenting and distilling alcohol, so that's our base product anyway."

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