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Texas distillery now making hand sanitizer after federal government gives approval

The tasting room at Hye Rum in Blanco County had to be shut down because of coronavirus, but the owners are finding a new way to be involved in the community.

AUSTIN, Texas — Coronavirus has shut down all types of businesses around the countries, forcing some businesses to get creative with what kind of work they do.

A Blanco County rum distillery, Hye Rum, is now working to fight the virus from their rural acres in the Texas Hill Country.

“We’re all in this together,” Hye Rum Co-Owner Stephanie Houston said.

Instead of making cocktails for their customers, the distillery is now making hand sanitizer, which they’re also giving away to their neighbors.

“It should be just as effective. Ours is around 69% alcohol,” co-owner and master distiller James Davidson said.

On Wednesday, the federal government gave distilleries clearance to make hand sanitizer, “to address the demand for such products during this emergency.”

This week, Davidson made about 70 gallons and plans to make about 500 gallons next week to keep up with demand.

“We're out in the Hill Country out here. It's a big community and we just want to help everyone in any possible way we can,” Davidson said.

That’s just one way these business partners are trying to be proactive during this global pandemic.

Houston created a Change.org petition, now with more than 62,000 signatures, asking the state of Texas to hold off on making businesses like hers pay monthly sales taxes when they don’t have any customers.

“My initial goal was to see us. We're here. Is somebody seeing us and can somebody please validate that you are aware of what we're going through?” said Houston.

So far, she’s happy with some of the steps the state has taken to help businesses affected by closures.

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On Tuesday, the Texas Comptroller’s Office put out a statement, asking businesses to still pay February sales taxes, which were due Friday.

But, Comptroller Glenn Hegar also included this in the statement: ““We will examine each tax due date as it approaches, and I will keep lawmakers and all stakeholders informed as the agency evaluates rapidly changing conditions.”

That’s hope for Houston in these uncertain times.

“Maybe it's not all the way, but it's moving in that direction,” she said, “and they're thinking that way and they understand and they see us.”

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