Rock & Brews decision delayed while talks proceed

WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission deferred action Tuesday on an anticipated final decision to reject appeals challenging permits for the Rock & Brews restaurant in Paia.

Attorneys on both sides of the dispute over the restaurant’s minor special management area permit requested that the commission grant them more time to work out an “amicable” agreement, said Irene Bowie, executive director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, one of the groups advocating that the restaurant obtain a more thorough, publicly reviewed major SMA permit.

She said she couldn’t comment on what the parties were working on to resolve the dispute.

The commission’s deferral followed a Dec. 10 meeting in which panel members unanimously rejected the appeals of those seeking a full SMA permit for Rock & Brews. Since then, the restaurant’s grand opening celebration was held Jan. 26. That event featured project partners and KISS rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

Those questioning the project have argued that the public’s right to fully review the restaurant’s plans were bypassed when a minor SMA permit was granted administratively by Planning Director Will Spence. A major SMA permit, which would have included a public hearing before the Maui Planning Commission, is supposed to be triggered when a project is valued at $500,000 or more.

Planning and Public Works department officials determined the project’s value was less than $500,000, clearing the way for an administrative-only review.

Rock & Brews officials have maintained that they followed the county’s required processes and did not block it from public scrutiny. In fact, they said, the project was reviewed by the county’s Liquor Control Commission and Urban Design Review Board. And developers held a public meeting to answer questions and air public concerns, they said.

As a result of the public meeting, the restaurant operators agreed to stop playing music at 9 p.m., they said.