WEST JEFFERSON-The same advanced technology hospitals use to disinfect operating rooms and keep potentially deadly germs at bay could soon make its debut in restaurants and day cares across the country.
And an Ashe County company is leading the way.
Guion and Lyle, LLC, the same team that owns and operates West Jefferson’s Hotel Tavern, has launched a new venture that aims to make both industries safer through the use of ultraviolet disinfection.
The company, Enhanced Disinfection Corporation, is the brainchild of Hotel Tavern’s Andy Guion and Sherman Lyle. The pair are working to market a new tool called SteriLyte that harnesses the power of UV-C – a spectrum of ultraviolet light – to help business owners kill or inactivate the microorganisms that could wreck your next trip to the salad bar.
“Right now we’re at the proof-of-concept stage,” Guion said. “Is anybody going to buy it? We’re working the streets right now to find the answer to that.”
But he’s already scored an early adopter in Gary Brown, owner of Boondock’s Brewing Tap Room & Restaurant, who Guion said has installed the system at his downtown Brew Haus, and is pitching the idea to others.
Not your normal lamp
Disinfection and sterilization has long been embraced by the medical community because of the risks posed by stubborn pathogens sometimes passed to hospital surfaces by sick patients. Left untreated, those same microorganisms – like Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) – can survive and thrive long enough to make someone else ill.
While chemical disinfection has always played a part in keeping hospitals clean, UV-C light solutions have grown in scope in recent years.
According to Guion, UV-C light essentially attacks the DNA structure of cells – in this case viruses, bacteria and other pathogens – and short-circuits their ability to multiply.
That’s a view backed by the National Institute of Health, which studied the use of automated UV-C devices and said the techniques, “led to a significant decrease in the total number of colony forming units of…target pathogens,” like C. diff.
Before opening Hotel Tavern with Lyle, Guion had experience building and marketing a mobile UV-C device for healthcare settings, and thought a modified version of the technique could make sense for restaurants day cares.
“In the food business, safety is always at the top of your mind,” Guion said. “You place so much emphasis on making sure everything is disinfected at the end of the day but the weak link in that chain is always going to be human beings. You’re tired at the end of your shift and you miss a little corner and allow some chicken juice to sit out for awhile and before long you’ve got problems.”
In its restaurant application, Guion said the SteriLyte system – it looks very much like a conventional overhead light fixture – is designed to emit UV-C light at a high enough intensity to disinfect both direct and indirect surfaces over the course of an hour.
Hotel Tavern’s system, for instance, is active from 3-4 a.m. each morning.
“It doesn’t change the procedures we go through at the end of every night,” Guion said, “but it does add another level of protection, and that’s something I think many business owners will embrace in time.”
Guion said the biggest challenge facing the company is educating potential customers about the impact the SteriLyte system could have on their business. He said it’s sometimes difficult to condense the science behind the system into a 30-second elevator pitch.
And while he said the systems are currently manufactured by a third party in the United States, the ultimate goal would be to grow the enterprise to a point the UV-C systems could be built right here in Ashe County.
“There’s potential here,” Guion said. “Growth has been incredible at (American Emergency Vehicles) but we need more homegrown business. If we get out of the gate in the numbers we think we can, we think we could grow manufacturing jobs right here at home.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.