Coronavirus: Pacifica distillery owner claims he was 'banned' from selling hand sanitizer to hospitals, first responders

PACIFICA, Calif. (KGO) -- A Pacifica distillery owner is at odds with the San Mateo County health order after the owner claims he was "banned" from selling hand sanitizer to hospitals and first responders amid the pandemic.

"It's really frustrating," said Jason Tripp, owner of Tripp's Distillery in Pacifica. "I was told I would be prosecuted if we did not cease all hand sanitizer productions."

For the past two months, Tripp and his team have produced 200 gallons of hand sanitizer to help meet the demand across the Bay Area.

"I was told to stop, after we changed our entire production model to do this," Trip said.

Tripp said he received an email from Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle that said:

"The bottom line, he cannot operate his storefront business. He cannot sell hand sanitizer or his alcoholic beverages from his storefront to the public."

ABC7 reached out to Chief Steidle who clarified his response in the following statement:

"The City of Pacifica is aware that local businesses deemed non-essential desire to sell alcoholic beverages and other products curbside. However, it is our belief that this does not conform to the current San Mateo County Health Order. However, in certain instances, products may continue to be delivered to the public or first responders/healthcare providers, or sold to retailers that operate essential businesses which sell to the public. While these times are unprecedented and difficult for our community members and valued businesses, our approach is to enforce the Health Order fairly and uniformly. We are hopeful that in the near future, restrictions will be relaxed allowing more businesses to operate from storefronts in some fashion."

A portion of the statement above refers to non-essential businesses that have "a desire to sell alcoholic beverages and other products curbside." It cites Pacifica police believes this does not conform to the current San Mateo County Health Order.

The police chief issued another statement Wednesday night, confirming the the distillery can't sell the product via a storefront.

Although, ABC7 found a clause in the county order under "minimum basic operations" that allows businesses to delivery inventory to residences and businesses, assuming safe social distancing practices.

"Other distilleries in the state of California can sell bottles to go. They can also have bottles delivered to your house," said Tripp. "There's no other distilleries in San Mateo County or the state that are subject to this interpretation."

Tripp's referring to an announcement made in March by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) which is the governing body for alcoholic licenses in the state. ABC reported it would temporarily relax regulations surrounding public alcohol sales and to-go delivery orders amid the pandemic in an effort to help businesses survive.

But according to Chief Steidle's statement, those rules don't apply in Pacifica.

In the latest statement from Pacifica police, the chief acknowledged possible inconsistencies depending on jurisdictions and circumstances.

"Inconsistencies in how the Order is enforced from jurisdiction to jurisdiction are likely to occur, given with the complexity of an Order such as this and that each jurisdiction has a myriad of variables and unique circumstances involving their businesses," the statement read.

"I'm worried about my staff," said Tripp. "I'll probably lay off two-thirds of our employees today."

ABC7 reached out to San Mateo County Health to clarify the language in the order and was told staff are now looking into it.

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