Owners of planned restaurant in Paia seek to ease fears

Despite its boisterous name and affiliation with rock ‘n’ roll’s Gene Simmons, owners of the proposed Rock & Brews restaurant Monday assured Paia residents that they are “one of the most family-friendly restaurants.”

“We’ve committed to shutting music down after 9 p.m.,” founding partner Michael Zislis said Monday night during a public informational meeting at a packed Paia Community Center. “That seemed to be a no-brainer for us with the family-oriented restaurant we’re looking to build.

“We are not a live entertainment venue.”

Zislis of California is a partner with Simmons in the restaurant, which has locations in California and Mexico.

The bassist and singer with Kiss did not attend the meeting, but Zislis and project manager Bill Frampton fielded questions from the estimated 100 people in attendance.

“We’re all here because we believe in Paia,” Frampton said. “We know that small towns make up Maui . . . and we need to keep it that way.”

The members of the crowd, who asked questions of Frampton and Zislis from where they sat, voiced their concerns about noise, security, parking and the effect of the restaurant on the general identity of the town.

One resident asked if the restaurant was going to be similar to being “backstage at a rock concert” with alcohol and “blaring music.” Frampton replied that that would not be the case.

“I was at the meeting with the liquor commission, and they are absolute,” Frampton said. “All it takes is one complaint, and that one complaint will go a long way. Your concerns are valid, because when everybody sees ‘Rock & Brews’ they think loud.”

Zislis said that the level of sound will be “background music,” where people can “talk across the table.” He added that the restaurant’s name is “somewhat misleading.”

“It’s just the name, though, and that’s how Gene Simmons got involved,” he said. “It’s classic rock. His kids and my kids are friends, so I brought him in.”

Along with concerns about the noise level, residents questioned the budget for the planned 3,585-square foot restaurant, which owners previously said was $435,000. The cost is a significant issue because at that level the project requires only a minor special management area permit. A more costly project would have triggered a major special management area permit, meaning more time and expense to build the restaurant.

Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the project “should’ve had a SMA major.” She said the owners did not include expenses, such as the demolition of the old Jacques Bistro on the site of the proposed restaurant.

She said the demolition required a permit that the restaurant owners did not obtain. The permit would have triggered a review of the neighboring Paia Mercantile Building by the State Historic Preservation Office.

“But instead a wall of (the mercantile building) was torn down in the demolition,” she said. “We believe it was a shortcut that they should not have been allowed to do.”

County building inspectors have issued a stop order on construction, Bowie said, as an appeal is being made to require the restaurant owners to obtain a major SMA permit.

Zislis said the cost to construct the steel building has been certified by architects and contractors.

“I built the last Rock & Brews with $800,000, and it was twice the size of this one,” he said. “It’s not a house, it’s a shell. Anyone who does not believe in the price (should) just go on our website.”

Not everyone was critical of the proposed Rock & Brews.

Larry Aldrich, who has lived on Maui for more than 40 years and ran a small business in Paia, questioned why residents were against bringing a family restaurant to the empty spot next to Charley’s Restaurant along Hana Highway.

“When somebody comes here with a great idea and concept. I don’t know why everybody is against it,” he said. “What can be better than rock and beer?”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.