Winery Sheds Light on COVID Sanitization Conundrum

The need to maintain consumer confidence and reduce health risks for customers and staff has contributed to the latest COVID-19 obstacle course in areas of the United States in which businesses are allowed to remain open and have indoor seating.

The Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin turned to technology to stay ahead of the problem. General Manager and Winemaker Tom Nye’s research led him to Healthe’s sanitization solutions, which utilize UVA, UVC and Far-UVC 222 light to clean indoor environments by deactivating airborne and surface contaminants. 

“We are a unique business in that we have a restaurant and a commercial winery on the same property,” said Tom Nye, General Manager and Winemaker. “With Far UVC and standard UVC fans installed throughout the property, we have the safest restaurant and winery that is possible right now. Coupled with our cleaning protocols and distancing, we feel like we’ve done everything we can.”

Installed improvements include a ceiling-mounted light — called “Space” — that produces a combination of general illumination and Far-UVC 222 sanitizing light to clean air and surfaces.

“The incredible feature of this technology is that it can be used in occupied space as opposed to standard UVC and it was real time mitigation,” Nye said. “Far UVC actually was more effective than UVC and it could be used with customers/employees in the space.  When I first heard about the technology in April, I spent at least a couple hours a week researching more about how it works and trying to find companies that were selling it as a product. I finally found Healthe and called them immediately. As it turns out, they were the first to really bring this to market and the timing was perfect.”

Instilling a sense of consumer confidence involves constantly educating customers about the winery’s sanitization technology.

“We communicate this through videos that we’ve created to show the technology working as well as informational tents on tables and large signs throughout the property,” Nye explained. “Because it’s new technology, we feel like we need to explain and inform often.”

That education process has included informing the local health department, which is on board with Blind Horse’s methods.

“I’m excited to see new technology being installed at The Blind Horse that can be a potential shining light to an industry that is suffering right now. It’s impressive that The Blind Horse has invested in such groundbreaking technology in Sheboygan County to help keep our citizens safe,” said Dave Roettger, Sheboygan County Health Inspector.

Sheboygan County has run the gamut with COVID-19, experiencing a full range of reactions, attitudes and infection rates. Nye said case numbers in the area remained low until August and September, when the county was listed as having the highest infection rate in the country.

“The Blind Horse wanted to ensure that we are a good community member by providing the safest location for our guests and employees, and that has resonated with a lot of our customers,” Nye said.

Nye feels the investment in Far-UVC 222 was worthwhile, as the pandemic has raised awareness about how pervasive diseases can be and residual wariness is likely to linger for awhile.

“Theoretically, scientists have known how fast diseases can spread in today’s interconnected world. The reality of how fast COVID shut down the world has proven that the scientists were correct,” Nye said. “The world just can’t afford to shut down again…we will need technologies like this to keep us safe.”

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