Maui Brewing Co., which has donated more than 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to first responders and others since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, is being investigated by the Maui County Liquor Control Commission for giving away the product with purchase to customers.
Under the rules by the Department of Liquor Control, it is unlawful to “give any premium or free goods of intoxicating liquor or other merchandise in connection with the sale of any intoxicating liquor or to offer or to provide any premium or free goods of intoxicating liquor in connection with the sale of other merchandise.”
Garrett Marrero, CEO of Maui Brewing, said he received a call Sunday from a liquor control officer informing him of the investigation stemming from the free hand sanitizer offer with purchase of beer.
“He tried to back me into the corner essentially. It’s considered an inducement giving away something to entice people to buy alcohol. We were giving away sanitizer with any purchase. This is in extremely poor taste given the situation surrounding the coronavirus. We’re in a unique position to help the community by making hand sanitizer,” as a licensed brewery and distillery, he said. “Of course we’re trying to encourage some business, but is it wrong? I’m hearing stories that people are paying $10, $20 for an 8-ounce bottle. We were doing the right thing. That’s what is really disheartening.”
Department of Liquor Control Acting Director Georgette Tyau didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
The company has been using its Kupu Spirits distillery to produce more than 3,000 gallons of sanitizer that is 70% ethyl alcohol, which is in short supply. Its Kihei restaurant was filling up 16-ounce bottles with sanitizer for customers who bought food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, and logo items and allowed dozens of people to fill up bottles without purchase, he said.
“We’re talking about $25,000 worth of donations in just what we donated recently,” Marrero said. “The government in large part is very supportive of what we’re doing, but unfortunately the Liquor Control in whatever world it’s living and operating in is deciding to behave poorly. No good deed goes unpunished.”
Maui Brewing has pulled back all donations of hand santizers to county and state departments, but will still support a few local charities.