Hand sanitizer giveaway causes huge line, fighting outside B.C. distillery
VANCOUVER -- A hand sanitizer giveaway at a Kelowna distillery attracted so much attention over the weekend that police were called to help with traffic control.
Forbidden Spirits Distilling posted on its Facebook page on April 8 that it was planning to give away up to four litres of free hand sanitizer on Saturday to customers who brought their own containers. The event, dubbed "Sanitizer Saturday," was scheduled to run from 12 to 5 p.m., but some customers started lining up in their vehicles three hours early.
Blair Wilson, co-founder and president of Forbidden Spirits Distilling Company, managed to convince a few people to leave and come back, but he said there were still at least 25 cars lined up down the road an hour before they were scheduled to open.
"The response was way beyond our imagination," he said.
The number of customers only grew as the day went on, and RCMP were eventually called to the area that afternoon for a "traffic complaint."
"By 2:30 in the afternoon, the RCMP came by and said they wanted us to close it down because there were over 1,000 cars waiting for free hand sanitizer," said Wilson, who stresses he had no idea there would be so many people waiting in line.
"When officers arrived, they found there were hundreds of vehicles waiting for free hand sanitizer and blocking the roadway, which is in a rural area of Kelowna," RCMP said in an email statement. "The free giveaway was suspended in order to get traffic flowing."
The distillery also shared in its Instagram and Facebook comments that the event was shut down in part because of fighting in the lineup, at least some of which was triggered by people cutting in front of each other, according to Wilson.
"For 99 per cent of the people that waited in line, they came through, they got their hand sanitizer. It's just that one per cent that caused the RCMP to show up and to stop the process," he said. "But for the people that came through, I think we serviced 400 vehicles in that short period of time, and they were very grateful." While there were some arguments, Wilson doesn't believe anyone was actually harmed at the event.
RCMP said no fines or tickets were issued, and other than the traffic concerns, the only other issue reported to police was "impatience."
Wilson said the distillery plans to host another giveaway this Saturday, but this time, they will be capping the number of customers at 300, and patrons will need to pre-register online and pay a $5 fee, with proceeds eventually being donated to the food bank. He hopes this will help keep the event under control.
"We're hopeful that this will work out, and if it does on Saturday, then we'll repeat it again on Sunday and maybe extend it to 400 or 500 cars, provided everything goes OK," he said.
Another upside of the event, Wilson said, is that the distillery was able to connect with nurses and other front-line workers, and as a result, has found other places to deliver the sanitizer.